A 63-story luxury hotel was engulfed in flames even as a massive New Year's fireworks display kicked off at the world's tallest skyscraper nearby, while tens of thousands of people whistled and cheered at early Friday's pyrotechnics.
Just minutes before the fireworks began in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, large explosions could be heard from inside the burning building, which was cloaked in thick black smoke. Other blasts followed later during the night. It was not clear what caused them.
At least 14 people were slightly injured, and one person suffered a heart attack from the smoke and over-crowding during an evacuation late Thursday, according to the Dubai Media Office. The statement said another person was moderately injured, without elaborating further. No children were among those injured, it said.
Around 1 million people had been expected to gather around the Burj Khalifa skyscraper to watch the fireworks. Dubai's economy depends heavily on tourism, and New Year's is one of the busiest seasons, drawing people from around the world to watch the fireworks that the emirate puts on at the world's tallest tower, as well as the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and over a man-made palm-shaped island. (AP)
Civil Defence, told the pan-Arab television channel Al Arabiya that the Burj Khalifa festivities would go ahead despite the fire, saying: "Of course, it will not affect the celebration." (REUTERS)