Terrified passengers were left stranded between floors in the world’s tallest building after a lift broke as they were descending in the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai.
Visitors queueing to descend from the observation deck on the 124th floor of the recently opened 828-metre (2,717ft) tower heard a crash and the sound of breaking glass from the lift shaft. Dust then billowed back into the room through the small gaps in the lift shaft doors.
The 15 passengers inside the lift were left stranded for 45 minutes before they were rescued by staff who dropped a ladder into the shaft and helped them to climb out to the observation deck. About 60 tourists who had heard the incident were left on the deck without explanation as security guards said that nothing was wrong. They were eventually joined by hysterical and dazed passengers from a second lift, who had been descending the tower when the incident occurred in the adjacent shaft. Their lift also stopped but was later safely returned to the observation deck, which was eventually evacuated via a service lift.
One visitor said that the initial lift failure sounded like “a small explosion”. It is still not clear whether anyone was injured. The Burj, which opened on January 4 with an extravagant firework display, was closed on Sunday after the incident.
Public access to the observation deck has been halted indefinitely, leaving hundreds of disgruntled tourists queueing for refunds for what should have been a highlight of their visit to the Gulf state. Emaar, the building’s developer, declined to comment on the incident but initially blamed its closure on “unexpectedly high traffic” in the tower. It later added that unspecified electrical problems could be to blame.
The lifts were promoted as one of the highlights of the tower. The fastest public lifts in the world, they reach more than 25mph (40k/ph), climbing to the top in about a minute. The observation deck was the only part of the tower to be opened so far. Saturday’s incident throws fresh doubt on the opening of other parts of the building.
The launch of the world’s tallest building was intended to be the crowning achievement of this small city-state, drawing a line under its financial difficulties. Instead it highlighted the emirate’s dependence on its neighbour’s support. It was renamed the Burj Khalifa instead of the Burj Dubai, in honour of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi.