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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, October 18, 2018

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Hundreds evacuated after fire in Dubai skyscraper

Fire in 79-storey skyscraper

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Hundreds of people in Dubai were evacuated from one of the world’s tallest residential buildings on Saturday when fire swept through The Torch, a 79-storey skyscraper, residents said, The Guardian reported.

A witness said flames shot out from two sides of the building as glass and metal rained down from near the summit of the structure, which stands more than 330 metres (1,082 feet) tall.

Medics said there were no casualties. At least a dozen fire trucks were able to extinguish the blaze several hours after the fire alarm went off around 2am local time (2200 GMT Friday).

However, some residents said they had been told by staff that the building’s fire alarms did not immediately sound and that the reception at The Torch was alerted to the fire by staff in an adjacent building.

“They (the Torch receptionists) got a call from Princess Tower telling them the building was on fire. The alarms were not operating automatically,” Archibald Jurdi, who lives on the 76th floor, told Reuters.

Reuters could not independently verify the status of the fire alarms. The building manager could not be reached for comment.

Residents said the fire had been fanned by high winds, dislodging chunks of metal and raining glass down on the area below the building, including onto a nearby road more than 100m.

Traffic in the area was diverted and residents of two other nearby buildings in the emirate’s Marina district, home to thousands of expatriate professionals, were also evacuated, the witness said.

Many of those standing outside the building were dressed in pyjamas, with others in evening dress as they returned from a Friday night out in the city’s many bars and restaurants.

One woman, who did not give her name, stood on the street crying, saying she had rushed back fearing for her belongings after a friend contacted her about the fire. Her fear turned to relief when she saw the lower floors where she lived were not affected.

Residents of neighbouring towers were returning to their homes around 0430 local time, but residents of The Torch were told they would not be allowed back into the building until the fire officials gave approval later on Saturday.

Residents of upper floors that were most affected were told it would be days before they could return.

Dubai civil defence officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and the cause of the fire remained unclear.

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Gulf Arab trade and investment hub.

Residents of two other nearby buildings in the district, home to thousands of expatriate professionals, were also evacuated, the witness said, because of concerns about the fire spreading in high winds. They were later allowed back inside.

Multiple emergency vehicles attended the scene and police cordoned off the area, and appeared to bring the blaze under control. There were no immediate details of casualties, or of the cause of the fire.

The Marina area is home to dozens of high-rise apartment blocks and hotels, many of them built over the past decade, which are popular with expatriate workers.

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