‘I felt the heat on my back,’ witness to Address hotel fire says

Updated 8:48 AM EST, Fri January 1, 2016
01:00 - Source: CNN
Dubai fire witness: I felt the heat on my back

Story highlights

One witness said the fire quickly escalated and debris fell from the tall building

Evacuations went quickly, a hotel guest says

People 200 feet from hotel could feel the heat from the fire

CNN —  

The fire at Dubai’s Address hotel spread so fast that it engulfed much of the building before witnesses fully wrapped their heads around what was happening.

Maha Abouelnebin was eating at the hotel’s terrace restaurant when flames caught her eye. In the time it took for her to realize that this was not an intentional fire, it was time to get out of there.

“Immediately we decided we need to get out of there because we saw debris falling from the building,” Abouelnebin told CNN.

One moment she was eating with her family, watching the water fountain shows that came on every 15 minutes. The next, hotel staff were managing an evacuation.

“It quickly escalated,” she said. The Address Downtown Dubai was packed, but the employees guided everyone out quickly.

Impressed with the evacuation

“We were really impressed with how easy we got out of there,” she said.

Address Hotel Facts

  • Years of construction -- 2005 to 2008
  • Opened -- October 2008
  • No. of floors -- 63
  • Height -- 991 feet
  • No. of rooms -- 171
  • No. of suites -- 25
  • No. of residences -- 626
  • Restaurants -- 7

The fire continued to burn hours after it started. As Dubai’s fireworks show at the Burj Khalifa for the New Year lit up the sky, flames continued to lick the Address nearby.

Fourteen people sustained minor injuries from the fire, the Dubai government’s media office reported via Twitter.

Jaqueline Hurtado, a CNN en Español correspondent, was also on the terrace of the Address.

She recalls hearing some screams and people running, and within moments was among those being evacuated by hotel staff.

’We cannot be where we are’

Hurtado also saw debris falling from the hotel.

The fire’s quick growth also caught those on the surrounding streets by surprise.

Some 200 feet (61 meters) away from the hotel, Josh Gatlin was standing – as were hundreds of thousands of others – and waiting for the Dubai fireworks.

“Actually, the only reason I turned around was because I felt the heat on my back,” he told CNN.

He made the decision to move away pretty quickly.

“Within 10 seconds it went from, ‘Wow, that’s a fire’ to ‘We cannot be where we are and we need to be moving away from that,’ ” he said.

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