Dubai Mall giant aquarium springs a leak

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The Independent Online

A leak in Dubai Mall's massive aquarium on Thursday led to shoppers being evacuated and boutiques closed around the major attraction in the once booming Gulf emirate, witnesses said.

The perimeter of the aquarium, said to be the largest in the world and which holds a number of different fish including sharks, has been cordoned off and shops around it closed, witnesses said.

"A leak was observed" at one of the points where the panels of the Dubai Aquarium intersect, Dubai Mall said in a statement, adding that "the problem was immediately contained by the aquarium maintenance team."

"The leak did not affect the aquarium's environment or the marine animals in it," it said.

Dubai Mall, which has a whopping 1,200 stores, is the largest mall in the Middle East. It is located at the foot of Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world.

The southern Gulf emirate's economy was booming until late 2008, particularly in the real estate and construction sectors which attracted huge investments as well as tourism.

But its rapid economic growth came to a grinding halt after the global financial crisis struck in autumn 2008, drying out foreign financing.

Dubai had heavily borrowed its way to build its economy, splashing on grandiose projects, mainly man-made tree-shaped islands. It is now facing severe problems in meeting its debt obligations.

The emirate sent jitters through world global markets in November when it said it needed to freeze payments on the debt of its largest state-corporate, Dubai World.

Dubai's total debt is estimated at between 80 and 100 billion dollars, although some reports say it could be as high as 170 billion dollars.

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