Dubai: The party was big, but the after-party even bigger. Dubai ushered in the New Year with a dazzling array of fireworks and pyrotechnics which lasted several minutes but the deluge of people that left the party arena following the midnight show lasted several hours, leaving the city roads clogged well into the early hours of yesterday morning.
According to estimates, more than a million people flocked in and around Downtown Dubai to watch the New Year spectacle that washed Burj Khalifa in scintillating colours. People were seen walking several kilometres to reach the area, while hundreds of motorists parked their cars wherever they could find space and camped on the roadside.
“I wanted to reach the Dubai Mall but when I realised it wasn’t possible due to the rush, I parked my car on the side of Al Khail Road from where we had a very good view of the Burj Khalifa. We sat there and partied along with several other families who were all having a good time,” Faizan Khan.
Congestion on roads leading to the Downtown area began as early as 6pm and by 7pm the Dubai Mall parking was closed. All roads leading to the area were closed around 9pm and people began to park their cars wherever they could find space with many virtually stopping in the middle of the road.
“The demand was unprecedented and there just wasn’t enough space so we had to close down the roads. But we succeeded in controlling the traffic very well and the night passed without any major accident,” said Hussain Al Banna, Director of Traffic at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
It was a sea of humans and vehicles for several kilometres around Downtown Dubai and when the event concluded the real challenge of the officials began as around a million people began moving all at once.
“When people came to the venue they came in at different times through different means but when the event got over they all began to go out at the same time and it is very difficult to control that many people. Obviously there would be some minor problems but no major issue was recorded,” added Al Banna.
People stationed themselves in and around Dubai Mall as early as 2pm on Monday, many with children and elderly members of the family and returning home jostling among so many people obviously wasn’t a cakewalk.
“It was a lot of fun and really enjoyable. We really had a good time leading up to the fireworks, but going back wasn’t easy especially when you have children and old people with you,” said a mother of two.
Families were seen crossing Shaikh Zayed Road from the Dubai Mall side to the Jumeirah side to catch taxis, while thousands of cars were parked around the Mazaya Centre from where people watched the show.
Earlier, as the crowd began to build up the Metro skipped the Dubai Mall stop and dropped commuters at Business Bay, Financial Centre or Emirates Towers stations, which helped avert chaos at the Dubai Mall station but didn’t amuse people.
“We were forced to get down at other stations but the stations were equally crowded. I got down at Business Bay station but due to overcrowding I got pushed and I couldn’t punch my Nol card. I’m worried that I will be fined,” said Abdul Mateen.
The station was closed to commuters even more than an hour after midnight and people could bee seen gathering around the gates waiting for the doors to open.