United Arab Emirates skyscraper erupts in flames

Police in the United Arab Emirates city of Ajman say a fire has erupted at a highrise tower, the latest in a series of skyscraper blazes in the Gulf nation.

Blaze comes less than 3 months after a massive fire raced up 63-storey building in Dubai

Two Emirati officials watch as fire spreads up the side of the building in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, early Tuesday. (Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press)

A fire raced up a highrise tower in the United Arab Emirates city of Ajman late Monday, the latest in a series of skyscraper blazes in the Gulf nation that is home to the world's tallest building.

Images shared on social media showed bright yellow flames spreading up the side of the building as chunks of burning material tumbled to the ground.

The Emirati interior minister, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, rushed to Ajman to help co-ordinate the response to the blaze, Ajman police said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Ajman is home to many commuters who work in the Gulf commercial hub of Dubai, farther to the south. Like Dubai, it is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE federation.

Police sealed off a major road near the tower, snarling traffic. Hundreds of residents and onlookers crowded nearby to watch the building go up in flames.

The Dubai-based Gulf News newspaper quoted Ajman Civil Defence director Brig. Saleh Saeed al-Matroushi as saying firefighters were at the scene working to put out the fire. A civil defence official reached by The Associated Press confirmed that firefighting efforts were continuing late into the night, but had no further details.

Debris falls as fire spreads up the side of the building in Ajman. (Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press)

The blaze comes less than three months after a massive fire raced up the exterior of the 63-storey The Address Downtown Dubai, one of Dubai's most prominent hotels. It is situated next to Dubai's biggest mall and the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper.

Similar fires have struck other highrises built since the turn of this century in Dubai and Sharjah, which sits between Dubai and Ajman.

Building and safety experts have attributed the spate of fires to a material commonly used to cover the buildings known as aluminum composite panel cladding. Some panels used in buildings in the Emirates contain a flammable core that can burn rapidly once ignited, allowing fires to spread quickly on buildings covered top to bottom with the panels without sufficient fire breaks along the way.

It was not immediately clear if the skyscraper in the Ajman fire had that type of cladding, but images posted on social media appeared to show the fire burning in a similar fashion.

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