x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Family waits for 'truth' over missing freediver

The family of a missing freediving champion who disappeared following a dive in Greece is still looking for answers five months later.

Missing freediver Adel Abu Haliqa at the Armed Forces' Officers Club in Abu Dhabi.
Missing freediver Adel Abu Haliqa at the Armed Forces' Officers Club in Abu Dhabi.

More than five months after the UAE freediving champion Adel Abu Haliqa disappeared in Greece, his family continues to search for answers.

Mr Abu Haliqa, 40, a father of three, went missing on June 7 during a dive off the Greek island of Santorini. Numerous searches have failed to provide any clues about what happened to him.

"We are waiting for evidence and we are hoping he will come back," said his brother, Hussain, 53. "We will keep on looking. We will wait until we see the truth either way. If it turns out to be the worst, we will accept it."

Mr Abu Haliqa had been training for September's AIDA Individual Depth World Championship 2011 in Greece, and was attempting a dive to 70 metres at the time of his disappearance. He was the UAE's sole representative in international freediving events, and had previously reached depths of 77 metres.

He and his brother used to jointly run the family business, Abu Haleeqa Stores, which sells traditional UAE clothing and accessories and has branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

Hussain travelled to Greece on June 9 and hired an Athens private company to conduct a comprehensive search using a submarine, as well as air surveillance by helicopter. Unsuccessful, he returned in August for a further two-week stint.

"Nothing was found, nothing at all," he said.

The cause of Adel's disappearance is a mystery. He was known in the freediving community as a level-headed man, not a risk-taker.

His older brother shares this view of him.

"I practically raised this guy. Adel is very careful, very accurate with things. He does not negotiate with things like safety," he said.

"As Muslims, we believe in destiny, things happen, but we don't believe you have to be pessimistic," he said. "We are still hopeful, we pray every day that he will come back safe or we see the truth."

For now, he said, "the truth is he is missing".

"Officially, the file is open but whether they [Greek police] are doing anything about it, I doubt it," he said.

The family is keeping in touch with contacts in Greece and also with journalists from a Greek TV station.

A programme is to be filmed this weekend in Santorini with the journalists investigating the accident. They will also ask viewers to come forward with information that could be helpful.

"It is a small effort but you never know," Hussain said.

He also spoke of how the family members' faith was helping them cope with the uncertainty.

"It is not easy, of course, but we always think we human beings are very small in what we can see, but we believe in a greater power, which can see everything. If a person is meant to survive, he will survive," he said.

"If you hand all of this to another power, you relax. Of course, every once in a while emotions will definitely have an effect, but we are holding, all of us," he said. "For us as Muslims, death is not the end: when you die, you move into another stage.

"Of course, we pray for him, that he will be well wherever he is and we try to do whatever we can."

Adel's wife, Nada, 35, lives in Abu Dhabi with their two sons, Mohammed and Ali, 10 and 4 respectively, and their daughter, Amna, 9.

vtodorova@thenational.ae