By Michelle Sutton, Staff Reporter XPRESS www.gulfnews.com
Dubai: I welcomed my New Year literally gasping.
I was giddy and light-headed, but not from ecstasy. Instead I was puzzled over why a frenzied crowd had been left struggling to get out of the Burj Khalifa station, from 10pm to midnight, turning it into a dangerous metro mosh pit. Babies and children cried, people panicked, I struggled for space and air.
I had taken the train from Mall of Emirates station at 10pm, hoping to avoid the expected traffic. But, so too had hundreds of others.
Upon leaving the train and entering Burj Khalifa Station a huge mass of bodies pressed against me, leaving me sweating, squashed and short of air.
Staff refused to open the gates to exit the station, leaving me and hundreds of passengers packed tight with no where to go.
Five minutes before midnight, I came upon expat Susanne Gamst, of Norway, who was squashed so tight she hyperventilated.
“That was so frightening,” she said. “I’m in shock that they allowed that many people inside. It’s crazy,” the woman said after getting outside that night.
She had to be supported to leave the station and when the crowd parted to allow her through, I also managed to slip out to welcome in 2011 hunched over and in shock
Others, however, were not that lucky and had their New Year count down inside the station.
At midnight I was metres away and attempted to breathe – Happy New Year!
Meanwhile, thousands were caught in traffic jams along Shaikh Zayed Road trying to reach Burj Khalifa or other Metro stations. A few minutes after midnight, once the fireworks were over, Metro mayhem struck again as the huge crowds tried to make their way back home.
I decided to walk to the Business Bay Station hoping to bypass the Burj Khalifa chaos. Sadly, things were no better even at 1am as I tried to board a train.
Bodies flooded the Business Bay station and staff again closed the exit gates preventing anyone from boarding a train.
Hailing a taxi was impossible as hundreds of vehicles were stuck in traffic jams that stretched for kilometres from Burj Khalifa.
Finally, at 2.30am I boarded a train to Mall of the Emirates and taxied home to Al Barsha. I was exhausted, shaken and hours late for my midnight party.
It was 3am on New Years Day.
I hear Dubai Ambulance Service Centre reported that almost a third of the Emirate’s 287 ambulance cases on New Year’s Eve were at Dubai Mall.
They reported that the most crowded area in Dubai was in and around the Burj Khalifa Metro station, which is why they had deployed more staff. I wish others had prepared just as well.