x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

One dead, dozens hurt in 127-car Abu Dhabi pile-up

Thermal imaging used to spot the accident scene from the air; several vehicles caught fire and emergency workers used pneumatic cutting tools to free some victims from their cars.

A chain-reaction crash in dense fog on the main highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, left dozens of people injured.
A chain-reaction crash in dense fog on the main highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, left dozens of people injured.

ABU DHABI // A speeding motorist triggered a 127-car accident yesterday morning that left one person dead and more than 60 injured, police said.

The pile-up, which occurred about 7.50am on the E-11 motorway at the 91km marker near Al Samha, was caused by a driver who failed to slow down in fog.

He rear-ended several vehicles travelling in the same direction, said Brig Gen Hussein al Harethi, head of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic department.

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More vehicles ploughed into the back of those cars, and by the time police arrived about five minutes after being notified, the entire motorway in the Dubai direction was choked by a chain of accidents.

"The first patrol arrived after five minutes," he said. "They implemented the traffic plan … by diverting traffic from the accident scene and fixing a lane for ambulances to pass through."

Thermal imaging was used to spot the accident scene from the air; several of the wrecked vehicles caught fire and emergency workers used pneumatic cutting tools to extricate some victims from their cars. Two kilometres of motorway was closed during the emergency.

An Abu Dhabi paramedic called to the scene said the road was so jammed with wrecks that the ambulances could not immediately reach many of the victims. Instead, paramedics ran in, carrying their gear and administering what first aid they could on the spot.

Most of the injuries, he said, involved cuts and broken bones. The more serious cases were carried out and taken to hospitals via ambulance. The person who was killed, of an Asian nationality, was not identified and no further information was available yesterday.

A separate treatment area was set up for people with minor injuries and those left stranded by damaged vehicles. Police brought in buses to transport anyone affected, Brig Gen al Harethi said.

Although the accident occurred in Abu Dhabi emirate, Dubai authorities were called in to help. The injured were taken to Al Rahba, Al Samha and Al Mafraq hospitals, according to Abu Dhabi Police.

Al Rahba hospital admitted 52 of the injured - 50 men and two women. Dr Mellie Boma, the hospital's chief medical officer, said nine of those cases were critical, including one Emirati.

She said one critical case with multiple fractures had been successfully operated on. Another had been transferred Sheikh Khalifa Medical City with a cervical spine fracture. An Emirati was transferred to Zayed Military Hospital with an open ankle fracture.

Fourteen of those admitted were categorised as "yellow" cases, meaning serious to moderate injuries, and 29 were minor.

"The good news is that no one went into the intensive care units," said Dr Boma. "They are all in stable condition."

After the accident, drivers were either turned back towards Dubai or diverted to a nearby roundabout for an alternate route to Abu Dhabi.

More than 100 police vehicles arrived at the scene, including 17 from the Armed Forces, Dubai Police, Civil Defence and various hospitals, said Maj Gen Mohammed al Minhali, head of operations at Abu Dhabi Police.

Police said they had reopened the road by about 10am. Officers cut through the side barriers to clear some of the wreckage.

Maj Gen al Minhali said warning messages about fog forming had been broadcast repeatedly yesterday morning and displayed on electronic signs. He urged motorists to pay attention to such information and drive carefully in unsafe conditions. Police said an investigation into the accident is continuing.

* With reporting by Wafa Issa and Rym Ghazal

hdajani@thenational.ae