Inferno: Dubai skyscraper engulfed in flames during New Year's Eve celebrations; Update: Explosions

If there’s been a more terrifying spectacle of a building burning than this since 9/11, I missed it. As I write this, Dubai authorities are claiming there are no injuries, but that seems impossible to believe. A few minutes ago, a live feed from Arabic TV that’s being carried by Fox News showed flames raging through the windows of dozens upon dozens of rooms. From what I saw, the blown-out parts ran around 10 stories high and a good 10 or so windows across. (The hotel is 63 stories tall and not quite 1,000 feet high.) Unless literally everyone inside the hotel was out on the streets celebrating New Year’s Eve, there are victims.

How’d the fire start? Under the circumstances, the best guess is “accidentally.”

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which ran up at least 20 stories of the building near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper at 828 meters (905 yards). The building that caught fire was The Address Hotel, according to Reuters, but reports also said it was a residential building.

Burning debris rained down from the building as firetrucks raced to the scene. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured in the blaze.

Dubai’s scheduled New Year’s Eve celebrations would proceed, a civil defense official said on Al Arabiya television.

Oookay. One Twitter user captured an image showing only a very small fire at the start; local authorities tell CNN that it started on the exterior of the 20th floor. Could fireworks from the ground have misfired? Stay tuned.

Update: One reason to think this might be accidental rather than arson is that the hotel is near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. If you were a terrorist or pyromaniac looking to maximize the impact of your crime, wouldn’t you target the Burj instead?

Update: Surreal: As video plays on Fox of fireworks bursting in the Dubai sky to ring in the new year, CNN is reporting this:

The fire’s been burning for well over an hour so I assume those explosions are a matter of the flames reaching something combustible inside the building, not pre-positioned devices being set off. Doesn’t make sense to wait this long before detonating a bomb.

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