The fast-spreading blaze resembled a fire at the Torch Tower in 2015, when about 60 floors were burned. Investigators concluded that the building’s exterior cladding, made of aluminum panels with combustible plastic cores, helped accelerate the flames.
Flammable cladding has contributed to at least three other towering infernos in recent years in Dubai, the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates. Dozens of giant apartment buildings and hotels have been erected there in the last two decades. On New Year’s Eve in 2015, a fire started by an electrical short in the Address Downtown, a 63-story tower, quickly consumed the entire building.
After that fire, Dubai Civil Defense announced restrictions in 2016 on using exterior paneling on new construction, including forbidding it on towers taller than nine floors. But the new rules did not immediately apply to older buildings.
Dubai passed additional regulations this year that would require buildings with flammable cladding to replace the siding with flame-retardant materials.
The authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the United Arab Emirates were built with siding that could potentially cause a fire to spread rapidly, according to news reports.
Flammable paneling played a major role in a deadly fire in June at the Grenfell Tower in London, which killed at least 80 people. The United States has stricter restrictions on the use of this type of paneling.