Feb 21, 2015 10:42 AM

Fire races up high-rise Dubai tower, but claims no lives

The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) One of the world's tallest residential towers caught fire early Saturday in Dubai's Marina district, sending hundreds of residents pouring into the streets as bright yellow flames raged several stories high. No one was reported killed.

The fire broke out at about 2 a.m. in the 86-story Torch tower on the northeast end of the densely populated waterfront district, which is packed with multi-story skyscrapers.

High winds from a sandstorm whipped through the area, fanning the flames, and debris from the fire cluttered nearby streets.

Dubai's police chief, Maj. Gen. Khamis Mattar al-Muzeina, said in a statement that firefighters put out the blaze before it caused serious damage.

Several balconies were damaged, and a number of people who sustained minor injuries were treated by ambulance crews at the scene, he said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear. Investigators were examining the scene, but there are no indications of foul play, al-Muzeina said.

The Dubai blaze happened a day after a fire gutted a building on the outskirts of the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, killing 10 laborers who had been illegally living in a storage area inside. Another eight people were wounded in that fire.

The Torch is managed by Kingfield Owner Association Management Services, which is arranging temporary shelter and supplies for affected residents. It said in a statement that everyone inside the tower was successfully evacuated.

"All fire safety systems functioned effectively during the incident thereby restricting fire damage to the exterior of the building," it said.

The Marina area is home to dozens of towering apartment blocks and hotels, many of them built over the past decade. They are popular with Dubai's many expatriate professionals.

Police blocked off areas around the Torch. Residents of at least one neighboring tower were told to evacuate as a precaution because of strong winds, but they were later allowed back inside.

Two residents of the Torch said they were told the fire started around the 52nd floor. Flaming material falling from the initial fire then set a lower part of the building ablaze, they said.

One of the residents, Steve Short, 53, of Liverpool, England, praised the work of firefighters who arrived quickly. He said fire alarms alerted residents to the blaze and building management sent workers knocking on doors to ensure residents got out.

Resident R.J. Morlock, 33, of Houston, Texas, shot video on his phone that showed bright yellow flames reaching what appeared to be several stories on two separate parts of the building. He said residents were nervous coming out but fire crews were able to bring the situation under control.

"I was really surprised they got it under control pretty quickly," he said. "It looked like it was going to go up."

As daylight broke, residents waiting across the street to be allowed back home were able to see the extent of the blaze: external cladding on the corner of more than two dozen stories from roughly the 50th floor to the top was mangled and charred black.

Cleanup crews dressed in orange uniforms swept up pieces of shattered glass and other debris covering the street outside the building. Tram service in the Marina was disrupted for several hours because of debris on the tracks, but it was restored by midmorning.

The Torch opened in 2011, according to developer Select Group.

In a statement Saturday evening, the Dubai-based developer said more than a thousand people were evacuated from the building and some were later being let back in. It defended the building's fire safety systems and evacuation protocols as working as planned.

"Select Group reiterates its unwavering commitment to upholding very strict standards for safety protocols in all of its developments," it said.

The Torch tower has 86 floors, rises 352 meters (1,155 feet) and contains 676 apartments, according to the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which maintains a database of skyscrapers.

It ranks it as the world's fifth-highest residential building and is the ninth-tallest completed building overall in skyscraper-packed Dubai, which is home to the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.


Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck.


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