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Lensman rescued from 48th floor of Address Downtown hotel

Photographer Dennis Borja Mallari was at the Address Downtown hotel Dubai to take pictures of the nearby New Year's Eve fireworks. (Twiiter: Dennis Borja Mallari)

By Agencies

The countdown for the New Year turned out to be some of the longest minutes of Dennis Borja Mallari's life, as the Filipino photojournalist of a local daily waited for help on the 48th floor of Dubai's The Address Downtown hotel.

Clutching the edge of a balcony 48 stories from the ground, just metres away from a raging fire, Mallari thought about the worst possible outcome.

"One hour, then that's it, I'm dead," he thought as he stood on the balcony in Dubai's luxury The Address Downtown hotel, attached by a rope to a massive window-cleaning platform.

Not long before, he had entered the balcony with a friend to take photographs of the nearby New Year's Eve fireworks display for his newspaper.

But the night suddenly changed when fire erupted in the hotel below them, engulfing several floors of the building in the heart of the skyscraper city.

"There's a fire," his friend shouted, rushing towards the nearest exit, before the photographer looked out and saw "smoke coming towards the balcony".

Afraid that he would suffocate, and unable to see how he could escape, the photographer decided there was only one thing for it: to tie a rope from himself to a window-cleaning platform and hang off the balcony.

He rolled out some 30 metres (100 feet) of a heavy-duty cable from a nearby machine used by workers to clean the tower's windows, attached it to his belt and photographing equipment and stepped off the edge.

He was very worried, "I wasn't sure what was happening downstairs. I was afraid I might collapse from the smoke."

Holding on for dear life outside the building, he began calling and texting his colleagues asking them to get in touch with the civil defence for help.

Civil defence representatives kept him calm as he waited to be rescued. "I was telling them I hoped to survive and see my wife," he said.

Half an hour later, he heard rescue workers approaching his floor.

"When I saw lights and heard the sounds of footsteps at the floor I was in, I started tapping on the aluminium to get their attention," he said.

"I think I was the only person left stuck that long," he said, describing how he was led out through the smoke-filled corridors of the five-star hotel.

For the photographer, the start of 2016 is something he will never forget. "I'm excited because it's New Year, and (filled with) an adrenaline rush," he told AFP, his voice still shaky.

Dubai's police chief said that all the residents had been evacuated due to the blaze, the cause of which was unknown. 

Fourteen people sustained minor injuries, one person sustained a moderate injury and one person suffered a heart attack.

There were no fatalities and all injured people were given medical assistance at the site and then transported to hospitals for further treatment.