x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Dubai Mall evacuated over gas leak fears in cinema

Witnesses describe chaos as hundreds rush from Reel Cinemas wing of the mall.

DUBAI // A suspected gas leak caused the emergency evacuation of visitors and staff from the Reel Cinemas wing of Dubai Mall last night.

Hundreds of people were removed from the cinema and shops in the surrounding area at 7.45pm but were allowed to return to the mall within 20 minutes after Dubai Civil Defence declared it safe.

The scare was caused by a suspicious smell coming from the air-conditioning units of the cinema. Panic erupted when people began coughing and inside and around the cinema's lobby area.

"I had just finished watching John Carter and started coming down, when I heard lots of people screaming," said Chris, who did not wish to give his surname.

"There was a strong smell of acidic gas, like from a chemistry lab. There was a lot of panic. The doors [leading from the cinema area to the rest of the mall] closed and people were running into the car parks. There were no announcements or clear directions."

He said he was upset that the mall management had done little to calm fears.

A mall security said people were "breathless" and complained of nausea. "We don't know what  the problem was," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We had to ask people to leave as there was some bad odour coming from somewhere"

It is not yet known what caused the smell.

Emaar, which manages the mall, said in a statement: "Visitors to the cinema this evening were asked to temporarily leave as a precautionary measure after an unusual odour was reported, which was found to be harmless. The concerned authorities are investigating the incident and the cinemas have resumed normal operations.”

pkannan@thenational.ae