AL AIN // Twenty-four bus passengers died and 24 people were injured yesterday in what is believed to be the UAE’s deadliest road crash.
A lorry ploughed into the back of the bus carrying 45 maintenance workers just before 8am on the E30, the Old Truck Road, next to Al Rawda Palace on the outskirts of Al Ain.
The lorry overturned on top of the bus and the victims at the scene died from suffocation after being buried under the lorry’s 75-tonne load of sand and building material.
The bus passengers were employed by Al Hakeem Decoration, which was carrying out maintenance work at the palace. When the bus slowed to turn left into the palace the lorry crashed into the back of it, sending both vehicles off to the right of the two-lane road.
There was not a safe distance between the two vehicles, and the lorry’s brakes failed, said Brig Gen Hussein Ahmed Al Harthi, head of the Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi Police.
One witness, Mohammed Hayad, an Al Hakeem employee, said the drivers of both vehicles had survived the crash, but the bus driver suffered two broken legs.
The Bangladeshi Embassy said 16 of its citizens were among the dead. One Indian national was also confirmed dead. Five bodies have not yet been identified and no information on the other two victims was available last night.
“Sixteen Bangladeshis so far have been confirmed dead and a good number injured,” said Nazmul Quaunine, the Bangladeshi ambassador. “It is a tragic incident and our officers are visiting the hospitals now.
“It is necessary to investigate this incident, how it happened and which is the company responsible, and to ensure adequate compensation is given to the workers.”
Mr Quaunine said: “We are unfortunately at the receiving end and not at the decision-making end. It is for the host companies to look into the way workers are taken to the work site.”
The Indian Embassy said one of its nationals had died and it was waiting for further information.
The Pakistani ambassador, Jamil Ahmed Khan, said there were five unidentified bodies and his officers were trying to reach the company’s management to find out how many of its nationals were on the bus.
“We are trying to trace the company’s management and identify the bodies with the help of hospital authorities,” he said.
Abu Dhabi Health Services Company said 10 injured men were treated at Tawam Hospital and six at Al Ain Hospital, where the bodies of the dead were taken, and a further eight were treated at two private hospitals, including Al Noor.
Of the men taken to Al Noor Hospital, three were treated for minor injuries, said a member of staff. “We received five patients in our ER department, and the nature of the injuries varied,” he said.
“Two of them were minor and were treated and sent home. One had a foot injury and is still in the hospital but will most likely be sent home.
“The last two, their situation was more critical.”
All police units in the vicinity were immediately dispatched to the scene upon receiving the report to rescue victims trapped in the bus and to provide first aid to the injured.
Emergencies and Public Safety ambulance teams from the general directorate for central operations at Abu Dhabi Police, the medical services division at Al Ain Police and Seha worked together to transport victims to the hospitals.
The director of the Traffic and Patrols Directorate at Abu Dhabi Police urged contracting and general transport companies to ensure the safety of brakes and other parts of their vehicles before departure and to take buses and lorries off the road in times of fog and rain. He also urged drivers in general to avoid overloading their vehicles.
Brig Gen Al Harthi praised the swift response of all police units, expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and wished the injured a speedy recovery.