SHARJAH // Two cargo ships yesterday ran aground at Sharjah Beach as the UAE was battered by strong winds gusting at 54 kph.
The Dolphin and the Lady Rana collided with rocks as their captains struggled to keep control of the huge vessels amid swells of up to 10ft, a spokesman for the Coastguard said.
"A private company that specialises in assisting sinking ships and in fixing their faults and damages was contacted," he said.
"The company advised that the ships make an emergency landing on the nearest shore and we directed them at the beach," rather than continue to collide with the rocks and risk sinking.
Nearly 20 crew members were rescued by the Coastguard teams arriving on time at the scene, the spokesman said.
Teams of divers and technicians were working hard to close the holes in the vessels and repair other damage, he said. The ships will be moved to the Ajman Free Zone's dry docks to complete their repairs and test their seaworthiness.
Nazim Mohammed, an officer aboard the Dolphin, said that his ship belonged to a British company and was transporting oil and petroleum.
"My ship crashed against several sea rocks and got several holes," he said. "We need some time to repair the holes and then we can sail again."
Mr Mohammed refused to give details as to his ship's destination or point of origin.
An officer from the Lady Rana refused to comment.
The sight of the vessels on the beach attracted crowds of people coming to offer assistance and take pictures.
"I just got a text from a friend that two big ships had an accident on Sharjah Beach and decided I should come and see it," said Omar Ahmed Shebe, a 35-year-old resident of Sharjah.
The National Centre for Meteorology and Siesmology yesterday issued a warning that the high winds could cause problems at sea and on land.
"Fresh to strong" northwesterly winds could cause waves of seven to 10ft, according to the warning, and gusts of up to 54 kph along the shore tossed around dust and made driving difficult.
Abu Dhabi police said they had received no reports of accidents caused by the winds.
The blustery weather is normal for this time of year, according to a meteorologist at the centre who declined to give his name.
It is caused by seasonal high-altitude winds from Siberia sweeping south, causing turbulence even at the surface, he said.
And although the temperatures for the UAE ranged from 2°C to 15°C in the mountains, to 8°C to 24°C in the lowlands, it felt much colder because of the brisk winds, he said.
"Even though there is more heat now as compared with January, it feels cooler because of the wind," he said.
Such wind chills are common throughout February, he added.