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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Fujairah residents struggle to rebuild their lives after the floods  

Walking back into their house, after it was badly damaged in flash floods two weeks ago, was not easy for young Emiratis Marwa and Mohammed Al Mismari.

The young siblings lost all their beloved toys, books, clothes and school bags in the flood that affected the country on December 17.

“Everything is destroyed and a lot of our stuff is missing, my favourite shoes and school bag are all gone, even my dolls,” said 11-year-old Marwa Al Mismari.

Her brother Mohammed,12, said: "I’m really sad that we can’t return to our house. The water took everything: our books; photos; clothes; and memories. And now, we have no house and no money."

The Al Mismari family left their home in Al Ghurfa area in Fujairah a day before the floods, as their 50 year old house was battered by strong winds.

“The house is very old, the walls and ceiling were cracked and started to fall apart due to the weather, so I took the family to a nearby hotel apartment to keep them safe and try to find a solution,” said Marwa and Mohammed's father Mubarak Al Mismari, 49.

Mubarak Sultan packs up and sorts out damaged belongings and tries to rescue some of their items at his flooded family home in the Al Ghurfa area of Fujairah city. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)
Mubarak Sultan packs up and sorts out damaged belongings and tries to rescue some of their items at his flooded family home in the Al Ghurfa area of Fujairah city. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)

Apart from Mr Mubarak and his two children, the house was a home to an extended family including his wife Sakina Al Haji,43, his 23-year-old stepdaughter Samin Sameeallah, her husband Faisal Sarwan, 25, from Pakistan, and their two daughters Maria, 2, and one-month-old Mayar.

Although the family was granted a plot of land in 2009, as part of a governmental housing initiative, they could not afford to complete the construction of a new house.

“The contractor asked for Dh40,000 to connect the house with electricity and I couldn’t afford that so we stayed at our old house,” Mr Al Mismari explained.

His wife said that the water destroyed all of their electronics, furniture and personal belongings.

“When we went to the hotel we didn’t know that this would happen so we didn’t take anything, only a few pieces of clothing (which is all we have now), everything else was damaged by the rain,” said Ms Al Haji.

“I’m glad that we are all fine but I don’t know what will happen next, we don’t have money or a house to stay in and we are desperately in need of help,” she added.

The couple's livelihood is also threatened. The unemployed pair had been earning a living by turning used tyres and metal barrels into seats and tables.

“All of our tools, equipment and paint that we used to earn a living were also destroyed, and we are left without anything,” said Ms Al Haji.

The family now face eviction from the hotel apartment they have been staying in as they cannot pay the rent.

“We don’t have any money left and we will soon be kicked to the streets unless we pay the rent,” she added.

The heavy rain caused water levels to rise suddenly by more than a metre in parts of Fujairah earlier this month, 25 houses were evacuated in the area and around 600 people were affected by the floods.

Evacuees were sheltered and provided with meals at Asem Bin Thabit School in Sakamkam.

“We stayed for three nights at the school, then they told us that it was safe to go back so we did, but it was a mess," said Mushtaq Mohammed-Baksh, from Burma, who moved to the UAE 56 years ago.

"Mud, dirt, water was everywhere and we are still cleaning to this day. I have five daughters, three sons and three grandchildren and we were all evacuated in the floods, our passports, birth certificates and other documents were left in the house and was found all wet,” said Mr Mohammed-Baksh, 60.

“Yesterday, some people came and gave us some furniture and money, it’s relieving to find good people around you but we still need a lot of time, money and effort to bring back what we lost in the storm,” he added.

Many families are hoping to get a financial help after losing all their possessions.

“The situation is bad and we don’t know from where to start, we are living in a mess and we don’t have the money to get back on our feet, so any financial support would definitely help us,” said Raja Zahidali, a 41-year-old Pakistani father of four, who was also affected by the storm.

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