Residents of the Torch Tower in Dubai Marina have told of their escape from a massive fire at one of the world's tallest residential buildings.
Annie Bricker, 34, from Austin, Texas said the fire had started about 1 am when she was in bed. “I got out into the stairwell and it was pretty calm,” she said.
“People were coming out of their flats and asking if it was a false alarm. I said to them don’t take the risk, get out now and we can find out once we’re outside.
“We all started walking to the stairwell. We were a long way up, but using the lift was out of the question as I didn’t know if it would stop half way down and then we would be trapped.”
The fire is the second at the Torch Tower in Dubai Marina, with repairs made to external cladding following a blaze in February 2015.
Dubai Civil Defence reported that 475 people had been successfully evacuated with no casualties and that all pets had been rescued and reunited with their owners.
An investigation is now under way into the cause of the fire, which started on the 26th floor of the 86 floor building.
Drone footage released by Dubai Media Office after the blaze was put out showed the seat of the fire on the south west corner of the tower, which spread rapidly. Authorities said the fire had damaged 38 apartments over 64 floors, up to the 85th.
Crews from six Civil Defence stations were involved in fighting the blaze.
Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, and Major General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director-General of Civil Defence in Dubai, were present at the scene according to WAM, the UAE official news agency.
Police at the scene were checking on residents, and directing them to three nearby hotels, including the Intercontinental. Ms Bricker said she was offered a room at a discounted rate by the One to One hotel, including a free breakfast and a late checkout.
Residents also received an emergency call from Torch Tower reception an hour after they had left to ensure they were safe. An emergency SMS text message was also sent out to advise them on what was happening.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said he escaped by running down the stairs. "There was an alarm going I came out of the apartment with my wallet and mobile phone, that was it."
#Dubai Authorities release a video of the aftermath of the fire at the Torch Tower. The fire was brought under control without any injuries. pic.twitter.com/FD4rCiRkud
The man, who lives on the seventh floor , added: "I saw there was a sparking from the roof coming down the side of the building. It must have been on Level 45 or 50, and it was going up.
"Pieces were falling down on the lower levels and landing on a balcony and that was starting a new fire going up, that's why it got so big."
People were exiting the building in a "quite orderly" way, he said.
Emergency crews did a "great job" trying to put out the smaller fires as debris fell, he added. Crews were inside the buildings on certain levels, he said, concentrating on putting out a smoking debris on the podium level to prevent the fire spreading.
"We were lucky there was not a bigger fire, or nobody lost their lives."
Kingfield Owner Association Management Services, the building management company for the Torch issued short statement saying that: "The safety of all residents and staff is of the utmost importance, and our efforts are currently focused on arranging the necessary emergency accommodation for residents." The company said a fuller statement would be issued at a later stage.
New tougher fire regulations for cladding on buildings came into force in the UAE in January following a series of high rise blazes, including the Address Hotel in Downtown Dubai on New Year's Eve 2015, but it is unclear if the repairs to the Torch following the earlier fire would have come under them.
Dubai Civil Defence: Torch Tower fire brought largely under control. No casualties have been reported so far pic.twitter.com/ETJN3kPu2a
The Torch Tower fire comes less than two months after the devastating fire - thought to be exacerbated by the type of cladding used to insulate the building - at Grenfell Tower in the UK in which more than 80 people lost their lives.
The tower became the tallest residential building in the world in 2011 but was surpassed in 2012 by the nearby 23 Marina and Princess Tower directly across the street. The Torch is 1,105 ft tall, with 79 floors above ground.