Huge fire erupts at skyscraper in United Arab Emirates

Last Updated Mar 28, 2016 8:07 PM EDT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates-- A fire raced up a high-rise tower in the United Arab Emirates city of Ajman late Monday, the latest in a series ofskyscraper 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 coordinate 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, further 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 evacuated residents and onlookers crowded nearby to watch the building go up in flames.

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

On New Year's Eve a towering inferno engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai and burned on into the first morning of 2016 as firefighters tried to douse the flames.

The blaze at the Address Downtown, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai, came after a series of fires struck the towers that provide the megacity its futuristic skyline.

While Dubai officials said only 14 people suffered minor injuries in evacuating the building, the New Year's Day fire raised new questions about building safety for those living in the United Arab Emirates.

In February 2015, a similar blaze spread along the external cladding of Dubai's 86-story Torch tower, one of the world's tallest residential buildings. There were no serious casualties in that fire. In October, another fire broke out in a high-rise residential tower in the Emirati city of Sharjah.

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 one 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.