Irish witnesses describe panic during Dubai skyscraper fire

Anita Williams says she was ‘never so terrified’ when fire swept through Address hotel

An Irish singer who was caught up in the Dubai skyscraper fire has spoken of how quickly the fire spread through the building.

Anita Williams, originally from Co Cork, was performing in the Address Downtown Hotel when her bass player noticed flames coming from a balcony three floors above them.

“To be honest, we did not think very much of it,” she said, “within a minute the whole entire hotel was on fire. After that, I can tell you, it was a stampede. It was incredible.”

She told the BBC: “I was never so terrified. All the women took off their high heels and everybody just ran. We left everything behind us.

“It just shot up through the whole hotel. Everybody was screaming and running. I thought it was a film. It was incredible.”

Burning debris could be seen falling from the 300m-high building as firefighters tackled the blaze.

Falling masonry

Kenneth Flynn

from Co Kerry was having a New Year’s Eve dinner with his partner when the fire broke out. They were on the 13th floor of the hotel when she noticed masonry falling past the window.

Mr Flynn described it as a “terrifying experience”. They managed to make their way down to the lobby room and to safety.

“We had some dinner at about nine o’clock or 8.45pm. We ordered one drink and my partner noticed something falling from the building. She said ‘What’s that?’ and I said ‘I don’t know but I’ll have a look’. By the time I walked out the whole building was just ablaze,” he said.

“It was unbelievable. By the time I came back in I had lost her because the whole place was in panic. People were crushing each other trying to get out and get down the stairwell. I’ve never experienced anything like it, it was surreal.

“We left everything. There was debris falling down. It just shot up through the entire hotel. Everybody was screaming, everybody was running . . . I thought: ‘This is a film’.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times