Residents of Dubai’s Torch Tower revealed how they fled the burning building in contrast to victims of London’s Grenfell Tower disaster.
Fire ‘spread rapidly’ through one of the world’s tallest residential towers sparking immediate panic among terrified residents, which included dozens of Britons, after a day when temperatures in the city climbed to 45C (113F).
Alarming footage showed flames climbing up the outside of the 86-storey skyscraper, a building popular with expats in the United Arab Emirates tourism hotspot.
Burning debris could be seen crashing down to the ground below as tearful residents fled and firefighters desperately tackled the blaze.
The same skyscraper was devastated by fire in 2015 and the building’s flammable cladding, which was similar to that used in Grenfell Tower, was blamed for fuelling the flames. Unlike the inferno in West London in June, in which at least 80 died, residents of the Torch were able to escape unharmed.
Horrified residents this morning described how they woke to screaming and fire alarms after a blaze broke out on the 63rd floor. It is understood to have spread across 40-storeys of the 676-flat building, where apartments start at £381,000. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Parts of the building were still undergoing repair work following the 2015 blaze when the second fire broke out overnight. In both incidents, it appears fire alarms alerted residents and building staff knocked on doors to ensure a quick evacuation.
Dubai residents and tourists shared photos and videos of the flaming debris falling from the building.
‘We were sleeping and we woke up to the fire alarm and people screaming. We ran down the stairs and it took us about 10 minutes to reach from the 50th floor,’ a resident who gave his name as George told Reuters.
‘It was very bad. The fire was very strong at that time, about 1 am. Then it started calming down over the next two hours,’ he added.
One Scottish couple were left devastated after being forced to flee their burning home for the second time in two years.
Leeanne Hume, 38, and her husband Donnie, 40, fled the Torch tower in their pyjamas when the building caught fire two years ago.
The couple from Wishaw had to escape for a second time in the early hours after fire ripped through the tower once again.
Heartbroken Mrs Hume said: ‘This is horrific. We are safe but our building is horrendous, worse than last time.’
The pair were woken by alarms and security personnel and fled to a friend’s home for refuge because they couldn’t bear to see the building they have lived in for four years destroyed a second time.
Mrs Hume, who does not yet know the extent of the damage in their 15th floor apartment, said: ‘I am scared to look at news or go back. As selfish as it sounds, I just pray our stuff is safe.’
Watford-born Danny Harper, a bar manager who lives on the 68th floor, said his flat had been destroyed in the fire, along with his possessions and his passport.
He was spending the morning trying to find out how to replace his documents and said: ‘Thankfully I work nights and I am safe. My flat, however, is not and my passport is gone.’
Cambridge University graduate Effy Chengyu Wang, a management consultant from China, said she had grabbed her passport and wallet as she ran for her life but said: ‘I am alive but I lost everything.’
The fire broke out on the southwest corner of the building, on the opposite corner to the previous fire.
Today there was still hoarding covering the damage from the 2015 blaze while an acrid smell of burning filled the air and bits of charred debris were still falling onto surrounding land.
Dozens of police officers and civil defence officers surrounded the building, preventing bystanders from taking pictures. There were no reported casualties, according to Wam, the official government news agency.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said fire alarms first went off just before 1am. He said residents had filed out via the stairs in an ‘orderly’ fashion.
The fire was put out within three hours and an evacuation centre set up nearby.
This morning, Dubai’s civil defence authorities said firefighting squads put out the blaze around 4am and were cooling the building.
Firefighters and police sealed off surrounding streets, which were partially covered by dust and debris.
By 4am the exterior of the building showed no sign of fire as residents and onlookers stood around staring up at the building, according to witnesses.
Another resident, whose gave his name as Mohammed and lives on the 12th floor, said the top part of the tower caught fire first and then lower levels followed as debris fell.
The government said it was working on providing shelter for those affected by the fire.
The cause of the fire is not yet known but civil defence officials said they had ‘successfully evacuated’ the building and were investigating.
The Torch Tower is the fifth tallest residential building in the world and stands at more than 330 metres (1,105 ft).
It became the tallest residential building in the world in 2011 but lost the record the following year to the neighbouring Princess Tower.
In 2014, a luxury 6,500 sq ft penthouse apartment – accessible by exclusive lift access – with four en suite bedrooms and views across the towering Dubai Marina skyline went on the market for the equivalent of about £2.8million.
The tower’s facilities include a gym, spa and outdoor pool with decking and upmarket furniture for its users.
Dubai authorities have previously said that some 30,000 properties across the United Arab Emirates had cladding or panelling that safety officials have said hastens the rapid spread of fires.
The incident may recuperate questions about the safety of materials used on the exteriors of tall buildings across the wealthy Gulf region and beyond.
An investigation by the management of the Torch after its 2015 fire found that most of the damage was to the cladding, exterior paneling used for decoration or insulation.
That blaze ripped through multiple floors of the new building, in the expat-heavy Marina district of the city. Flames shot out from two sides of the building and glass and metal rained down from the skyscraper.
Police in Britain have said they believe the system of insulation and cladding panels added during a refurbishment of London’s Grenfell Tower may have contributed to the rapid spread of a fire there in June in which 80 people died.
Experts in the UK have previously voiced concerns that building regulations are unclear on the use of combustible cladding, which paved the way to their use by contractors.
Unlike Grenfell, residents of the Torch were able to escape unharmed. Internal fire alarms and building management sent workers knocking on doors to ensure residents got out.
In contrast, Grenfell residents reported not hearing an alarm. Firefighter also told people to remain in their flats, believing that they could contain the fire.
The UAE reviewed its building safety code in 2013 to require cladding on all new buildings over 50 feet tall be fire-resistant, but older buildings are exempt. External sprinklers are also being encouraged for new buildings.