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Fire At Dubai High-Rise Is Blamed On Electrical Issue In Spotlight

Flames that engulfed Dubai's Address Downtown hotel on New Year's Eve were caused by an electrical short, forensics experts said Wednesday.

A fire that engulfed a 63-story hotel in Dubai on New Year's Eve was started by an electrical short-circuit, police forensic experts say. The blaze turned The Address Downtown Dubai hotel, in the United Arab Emirates, into a spectacle that rivaled the city's fireworks display.

No deaths were caused by the fire, although 14 people reportedly suffered mild injuries. Even after it was extinguished, smoke continued to rise from the building on Jan. 1.

The short-circuit occurred in a bright light that's used to illuminate the hotel's exterior, police say.

"The blaze started in the cables of a spotlight on the ledge between the 14th and 15th floors," reports Gulf News, citing Dubai Police's head of the forensics and mechanical engineering department.

As NPR's Leila Fadel reported, the fire brought new concerns about the risk of future blazes in Dubai's skyscrapers:

"There's concern over the cladding panels used on the outside of these shiny buildings. A lot of them, experts say, are flammable. The 2012 fire that destroyed Tamweel Tower was in part caused by these panels because they act as fuel for the flames. The National, a government-owned newspaper, estimates upward of 70 percent of skyscrapers in Dubai are covered in these flammable panels."

Standards for the highest structures were changed in 2013, Leila said, but that does little to reduce the risk posed by existing buildings.

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