x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Fourth child dies in tower fall, prompting safety calls

Death of fourth child in a fortnight in fall from high-rise prompts calls for checks on buildings nationwide.

Hundreds of buildings across the country do not have adequate safety railings or grilles attached to the windows.
Hundreds of buildings across the country do not have adequate safety railings or grilles attached to the windows.

SHARJAH // A three-year-old boy fell to his death from a high-rise on Sunday, becoming the fourth child in two weeks to die after plunging from a tower block in the emirate, police said yesterday.

The deaths follow a tragedy on September 28 in which a five-year-old boy fell from the eighth-floor window of his flat in Dubai's Jumeirah Lakes Towers, prompting his distraught mother to jump afterwards.

The most recent accident happened about 9pm in the Al Manara Building on Jamal Abdul Nasser Road. The boy, a member of a Syrian family living in the building, fell from a 14th-floor window, police said.

The name of the dead boy was not released.

Police were called immediately and residents tried to help the boy before officers arrived at the scene.

An ambulance took him to Al Qassimi Hospital, but he was already dead.

The boy's family was being questioned yesterday but a police spokesman said no one had been detained.

No official account of the incident has been issued, and the family was not available for comment last night.

Mohammed, the building's watchman, said the boy was playing with his mother when he fell. The windows of the building open outward, and it was not clear whether any safety equipment had been installed.

Mohammed added that the family had another child, a little girl.

The arrival of good weather means that many people are simply leaving windows open all the time, said Naema Khamis Al Nakhi, a social worker with Al Qassimi Hospital. She said the increasing number of open windows was a clear cause of the number of accidents, as was the influence of television.

"Children are copying what they see on TV, especially cartoons," she said.

Sulaiman Abu Hamad, a father of two in Sharjah's Al Khan area, said authorities should form a monitoring committee to check on and maintain building safety throughout the country.

"This important work of monitoring should not be left to parents alone, as we see the young ones perishing," he said.

"The Government should step in and help, like all emergencies that need help."

Godfrey Wampona, a Sharjah resident with three children under the age of five, said the deaths were causing a lot of anxiety. He said safety measures in most buildings were to blame.

"My son Victor used to look through the window and see cars downstairs with just a single climb on to a chair," he said. "I had to close all windows for good and order his mother never to open them whatever the case."

He said the windows were so close to the ground that even a child of three, once on chair, could not just peep out but even sit on the window sill.

Adil Farouk, another resident, blamed poorly designed balconies for much of the danger, saying they were unsafe for children because they had short railings. Playful children could easily slip off such balconies, he said.

In Ajman, where such falls have also been common, Dr Abdul Karim Al Halimi, the director of Sheikh Khalifa Hospital's emergency department, said the hospital had handled 15 cases of falls, mostly children, from January to October.

A police spokesman in Ajman said the department was conducting an independent study on the causes of falls. A report will probably be complete before the end of the year, he said.

"Once our study is ready, it will be shared with the municipality and other authorities to see how we can implement its recommendations to save the young ones," he said.

ykakande@thenational.ae