Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Explosion and Evacuation at Burj Dubai / Khalifa - and Lots of Silence

"Faulty elevator to blame for Dubai tower shutdown"
The Associated Press (February 9, 2010)

"A faulty elevator was behind the shutdown of the observation deck on the world's tallest tower that effectively closed the half-mile-high Burj Khalifa to the public, witnesses and a Dubai rescue official said Tuesday.

"Visitors who were on the viewing floor at the time of Saturday's incident told The Associated Press they heard a loud noise, then saw what looked like smoke but turned out to be dust seeping out of the crack in one of the elevator doors.

" 'It almost sounded like a small explosion. It was a really loud bang,' said Michael Timms, 31, an American...."

"...The 2,717-foot (828-meter) building's owner, Emaar Properties, has revealed few details about the incident since closing the observation deck indefinitely.

"In a brief statement Monday, the company said the viewing platform was temporarily shut for 'maintenance and upgrade' because of 'unexpected high traffic.'..."

"Emaar has made no mention of problems with the elevators. That angers some involved in the incident.

" 'What just kind of shocks me is that they were going to brush this under the rug to save face. If it broke, at least tell people it broke,' Timms said.

"The company has not responded to specific questions about the incident or made anyone available to speak despite repeated requests by the AP...."

(News services were calling the tower the Burj Dubai last month. Looks like it's the Burj Khalifa now. I rather doubt that Dubai put up two identical supertowers.)

I don't know why the owners have clammed up. Maybe it's a cultural thing: something that folks living in that part of the world would understand as something other than an effort to wish a problem away. In contrast, an American company that got that unresponsive, that fast, would have me wondering about what the brass knew that they didn't want anyone else to know. In Dubai, maybe ignoring the press is a tradition.

It's not smart, though, I think. Particularly since foreigners are probably expected to come to the Burj Khalifa (Dubai?). Some of us have gotten used to getting information, in some level of detail, quickly. Even if it's 'we don't know what happened, but we acknowledge that it's serious: and we're investigating.'

And, Americans may remember cases like last year's poison peanuts. (February 26, 2009) The lesson from that affair should have been that ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.

Something involving an explosion and a building isn't what I'd choose to keep quiet about, if I was responsible for the tower's public image. Particularly since the tower is in a part of the world which has the reputation for producing terrorists. (Sorry, but it only takes a few outfits like Al Qaeda to make an impression.)

But, happily, I don't have to worry about deciding how to handle this embarrassment.

I'm just glad that everybody got out okay.

As far as we know.

Later related post:
Related posts:
In the news:
The Scholastic article includes this explanation of the tower's new name:
"...A New Name for the Middle Eastern Tower

"The Burj Khalifa was originally named the Burj Dubai, or Dubai Tower, after the region where it was built. Dubai is a sheikdom, or a region in the Middle East that is governed by a ruler called a sheik. It is part of the United Arab Emirates, a country made up of seven sheikdoms. Recently, Dubai needed a loan. Sheik Khalifa, President of the United Arab Emirates and sheik of neighboring Abu Dhabi, helped out. Burj Dubai was renamed Burj Khalifa in his honor...." Fair enough: and a custom shared by quite a few cultures, I'd think. For example, quite a few buildings here in America have been named after the person who provided the financing.

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