Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 February 2020

Hats off to the UAE’s teams of rescue workers

Heavy rain and floods have stretched emergency crews but they’ve done a stellar job

Two soaking wet police officers laugh as they help a driver through a pocket of water near Ras Al Khaimah city on Saturday, January 11 2020. Courtesy: RAK Police
Two soaking wet police officers laugh as they help a driver through a pocket of water near Ras Al Khaimah city on Saturday, January 11 2020. Courtesy: RAK Police

Downpours are not the norm in the UAE. January usually sees an average of just 10 millimetres of rain for the whole month. But the past week has been different with 150mm of rain falling in one hour alone, enough to cause delays, disruptions and even death, as in the case of the woman who died when a wall collapsed during the storms that lashed Ras Al Khaimah, in which 120 people had to flee their homes.

In the days of rain across the UAE, rescue teams and the country’s police force were quick to attend to those stuck in dire situations. More than 200 people were rescued from floods over three days, according to some reports. The teams in Ras Al Khaimah airlifted, among others, men who were saving themselves from the torrential rain by clinging to a tree. They assisted an Emirati man and his wife marooned in their car by floods in a wadi. They helped Emirati Reem Al Falasi, whose car was submerged in the water collected in an underpass near Dubai’s Festival City. And these were just some of the cases.

Collectively, the teams, quick on their feet, have done an astonishing job rescuing citizens and residents. In several cases, their timely intervention has saved lives. The bravery of these acts deserves acknowledgement. We must salute the efforts and the success of these very professional, efficient operations that have brought succour to people worried for their lives and the families of those marooned.

Collectively, the teams, quick on their feet, have done an astonishing job rescuing citizens and residents

Ms Al Falasi, who was pulled out of her car window and had to climb on the roof until police managed to get her out of the tunnel safely, told a radio channel: “I started drowning in the car and I thought I was going to die.” She called the police operation room and help came. “A rescue team quickly came to pull me out of the car. I honestly see such acts in the movies and didn’t expect it to be so real.”

It is when we hear of such experiences that we can fully appreciate the quick thinking and valour of the Civil Defence teams across the country. We must also spare a thought for the municipality workers who have worked tirelessly this past week to drain the pools of rainwater from the streets to smooth traffic flow.

A motorist in Dubai struggles in the floods that hit the city last week.
A motorist in Dubai struggles in the floods that hit the city last week.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Jan 15 – 2020 :- Water logged streets because of rain for the last few days at the International City in Dubai. Water tankers pumping out the accumulated water from the roads and residential area at the International City. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram
Water-logged streets at International City in Dubai. Water tankers were called in to pump out the accumulated water from the roads and residential areas. Pawan Singh / The National
A man stranded on the roof of his car was rescued from a flood-hit wadi in Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy: RAK Police
A man stranded on the roof of his car was rescued from a flood-hit wadi in Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy: RAK Police

It is also a matter of pride for citizens and residents that rescue teams from the Emirates help not just at home but during missions overseas. In March 2019, an Emirates Red Crescent team landed in Mozambique to assist 200,000 people after Cyclone Idai killed hundreds in the port of Beira. More recently, in the spirit of "mates help mates", the UAE has pledged to send resources to Australia to battle the bushfires that have caused untold destruction, and killed at least 26 people and millions of animals.

In the UAE, though, we must remember that inclement weather is not the only time to commend the stellar work of rescue missions. Around the year, teams attend to those stuck in unfortunate circumstances. In April 2019, the RAK police helicopter team rescued a family of dehydrated and exhausted trekkers from a mountain. A couple of months before that, in December 2018, another helicopter rescue team came to the aid of three injured people after their vehicle overturned in the Abu Dhabi desert.

It should not be just for the people rescued to express their gratitude as these acts of bravery comfort us all. It is the work of rescue teams across the country that assures people that if the time should ever arise, their safety will be prioritised, and that with one phone call, help will arrive immediately.

Updated: January 16, 2020 06:52 PM

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