A fire tore through one of the world’s tallest residential towers in Dubai for the second time since 2015, prompting many to compare it to the blaze at London’s Grenfell Tower.
Horrified onlookers watched as flames of the 1,105 foot (337 metre), 79-storey Torch tower on Thursday night.
This is the latest in a series of fires in tall structures in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf’s tourism and business hub, over the past three years.
One Torch resident, who gave his name as George, told Reuters: “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.
“It was very bad. The fire was very strong at that time, about 1 a.m. Then it started calming down over the next two hours.”
The building, which is home to many expats and is the fifth tallest residential tower in the world, was evacuated and there were no reports of injuries.
The incident may revive 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 panelling used for decoration or insulation.
The Daily Mail cited UAE civil defence teams who said that fire spread partly due to flammable exterior cladding panels, similar to those used in Grenfell Tower.
Most of Dubai’s approximately 250 high-rise buildings use cladding panels with thermoplastic cores, UAE media have reported . Panels can consist of plastic or polyurethane fillings sandwiched between aluminium sheets, similar to that used on Grenfell Tower.
Such cladding is not necessarily hazardous, but it can be flammable under certain circumstances and, depending on a skyscraper’s design, may channel fires through windows into the interiors of buildings.
The UAE revised its building safety code in 2013 to require cladding on all new buildings over 15 metres (50 feet) tall be fire-resistant, but older buildings are exempt.