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High-rise towers are Emirates' killers in waiting

Dubai:  Hundreds of Dubai's tallest buildings are infernos waiting to happen,  after a spectacular New Year's Eve skyscraper blaze raised concerns about the safety of buildings throughout the Emirates.

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Fire engulfs Dubai hotel

RAW VISION: A fire has engulfed The Address Hotel in downtown Dubai hours before a large New Year fireworks display was set to start.

Flames engulfed the exterior of the luxury 63-storey hotel The Address within seconds, tearing up the outside of the building "like paper", according to onlookers and causing a stampede of New Years revellers.

The fire - the third to hit a Dubai skyscraper since 2012 - has renewed fears about the use of highly combustible materials on hundreds of skyscrapers throughout the United Arab Emirates. No-one was killed in the inferno, and the cause of the fire remains unknown

Smoke and flames pour out of a residential building as a fire runs up some 20 stories of the high rise in Dubai, United ...
Smoke and flames pour out of a residential building as a fire runs up some 20 stories of the high rise in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Thursday.  Photo: AP

At the heart of safety concerns is the use of polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding on buildings throughout the height of the emirate's building boom. The material was only outlawed by new regulations in 2013.

The same phenomenon was observed when the 86-storey skyscraper The Torch went up in flames in February 2015, just three years after a near-identical blaze at the Tamweel Tower located in the Jumeirah Lakes Towers complex in November 2012.

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The National newspaper reported in March 2015 that "inflammable cladding materials, comprising plastic or polyurethane fillings" were also blamed for spreading fires at both the Al Baker Tower 4 and the Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah in 2012.

It is nearly impossible for  people who visit Dubai and other UAE destinations to tell at a glance if their hotel or accommodation block is clad in inflammable material.

Smoke billows from the Address skyscraper in Dubai on Friday.
Smoke billows from the Address skyscraper in Dubai on Friday. Photo: AP

An employee at a shop at the base of the tower who asked not to be named described the moment the fire took hold of The Address, which opened in May 2008 and is the 18th-tallest building in the city and 93rd-highest in the world.

"The flames raced up more quickly than anyone can imagine. It was horrible. Horrible to watch," he said. "We thought there must be so many people in there, but then the stampede began. It is a miracle no one was killed."

The cost of retro-fitting buildings with exterior sprinklers or spraying them with fire-retardant materials is considered to be prohibitively expensive and likely to be the subject of time-consuming litigation between developers and owners over who should foot the bill..

Telegraph, London