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Dubai hotel fire: Northern Ireland holidaymaker tells of the last-minute decision that saved him from Downtown Address Hotel blaze

Exclusive by Claire McNeilly

Published 02/01/2016

The blaze began on Thursday night before Dubai’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show at the Burj Khalifa
The blaze began on Thursday night before Dubai’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show at the Burj Khalifa
The blaze began on Thursday night before Dubai’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show at the Burj Khalifa
Firefighters (far right) spray water on a fire burning in the Address Downtown skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates yesterday after the blaze which began on Thursday night
Gary McDermott. This photo was taken in the area of where the fire was.

A Northern Ireland man has told how a last-minute change of plan saved him from being caught up in Dubai's towering inferno.

Gary McDermott had intended to ring in the New Year with friends near the Downtown Address Hotel, which was gutted by fire as terrified guests and revellers fled for their lives.

The 26-year-old civil servant from west Belfast made an 11th-hour decision to avoid the area and decided to go to a house party instead.

The five-star hotel, which is near the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was evacuated, 16 people were hurt and one person suffered a heart attack during the fire drama.

Speaking last night from Dubai, Mr McDermott - who watched as the huge blaze engulfed the high-rise hotel ahead of a New Year's Eve firework display on the world's tallest building - said he was relieved he had not been in the area.

"Myself and a couple of friends has been planning to go there to watch the fireworks but we changed our minds at the last minute," he added.

"We only made a final decision to avoid the area late in the day because we were told that it would be very crowded. It came as a massive relief that we weren't there when the fire broke out."

Mr McDermott, who is currently on holiday in the United Arab Emirates with his family, told how he saw the inferno at the 63-storey luxury hotel from the safety of a nearby rooftop.

"We were at my uncle's home at Jumeirah Beach when we noticed the flames some time after 9.30pm," he said.

"At first, we thought there was a problem with the fireworks and that, perhaps, they had gone off too early. We didn't think then that it was anything more sinister.

"But then I started getting a lot of messages on my phone from people who were worried about me and that was how I found out what was really going on."

The Address Downtown was packed with residents and guests waiting for the famous firework display at the Burj Khalifa, which sits just across the lake from the Downtown Address, when the fire took hold around 9.30pm local time.

Investigators believe that a curtain fire may have caused the blaze, which then ripped through the skyscraper.

Firefighters were still "cooling down" the skyscraper yesterday as plumes of smoke continued to billow from the lower portions of the tower, more than 20 hours after the fire broke out.

Belfast Telegraph

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