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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Dubai Police rescuers tell of ‘continuous’ call-outs to children trapped in stifling cars

Officers call for parents to be more vigilant and always know where their children are as they open up about the hard-hitting incidents they face on a daily basis

Search and rescue officers are highly trained in dealing with emergency situations but say sometimes unwitting members of the public can do more harm than good. Pawan Singh / The National
Search and rescue officers are highly trained in dealing with emergency situations but say sometimes unwitting members of the public can do more harm than good. Pawan Singh / The National

Far too many children are being left locked in hot cars, police emergency crews say, and parents have to be more vigilant if they want to avoid tragedy.

Children or even animals suffocating in stiflingly hot cars are sadly never far from the news during the summer and Dubai Police search and rescue staff say parents need to be aware of where their kids are at all times.

"We ask parents to be extra careful about children being locked in their vehicles. We deal with rescuing children from hot vehicles continuously," said Captain Mohammed Ahmed, 49.

“We rush to the site and we manage to free the child in less than two minutes," he said, though sometimes it can be too little, too late.

That was the case in June when two young sisters - Moza, 4, and 2-year-old Hafsa Al Balooshi - died after being trapped in their father’s car outside their home in Al Jurf, Ajman for two hours. Police said at the time that they were playing and had entered the car and the vehicle had auto-locked while their father was out performing noon prayers at a local mosque.

Another incident that stuck in the mind of rescuer Yousef Ahmed Obaid, 35, was when he attended the scene where a young boy was trapped in a car in summer 2014.

“I arrived at the scene and dealt with the situation professionally,” said the rescuer who has worked in the field for 14 years. “I and other rescuers managed to get the child out of the car and his mother immediately rushed to him, hugged him and burst into tears. She started to put water on her son while she was crying overwhelmingly.

“This was such a touching, human situation, and it impacted me immensely.

“Saving others’ lives has added value to my life. Since then, I decided to carry on with this job and save more lives.”

While rescuers take great heart from when they manage to do good, their jobs are sometimes hampered by well-meaning members of the public.

Inevitably in a country where car crashes are so prevalent, these incidents make up the bulk of the search and rescue department’s work but with so many people on the roads, surrounding the scenes, people trying to help can end up hindering instead.

“There are challenges even before arriving,” said officer Obaid. “Our main task is to reach an accident victim at high speed but sometimes motorists do not give way to rescue vehicles because either they do not care or have loud music on.

“Also, overcrowding at accident scenes [can be a problem]. Sometimes members of the public even try to instruct us what to do.

“Most people at accident sites try to help victims and others try to take pictures. However, their attempts to help victims of crashed may lead to the victim’s death, simply because they do not know how to provide them with assistance.

“Rescuers have went through situations when members of the public were trying to pull someone out of the car and they end up hurting their spinal cords.”

Captain Ahmed works for the “hard missions team”, which is “usually dispatched to fire sites, collapsed buildings, rescues of people onshore and offshore, and several other duties”.

“We take very intensive training courses to perform the tasks required,” he said, adding that he has also attended drowning incidents and cases of cars falling into bodies of water.

He said one case of a collapsed building took rescuers 26 hours to find a missing man, only to realise he was dead, though another man was rescued.

“Insects gathered in a location at the construction site and we sensed that the body of the labourer, an Arab, must be there,” said captain Ahmed of the incident in Al Muhaisnah in July.

However, he said, “there are not many collapsed buildings in the emirate”.

First warrant officer Mohammed Ahmed Al Saad said the job of a rescuer not only requires quick thinking and an ability to work under pressure, but it demands a thick skin, as incidents live with them.

“I dealt with a man and wife with their children who went through a major accident,” he said. “We reached the scene to find the man and woman had succumbed to their injuries. Their daughter was sitting nearby her mother thinking that her mother was asleep and it really affected me.”