x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Scaffolding accidents claim the lives of three

Three men died over the weekend in two separate incidents in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

An external scaffolding collapsed on a residential building, sending several men falling to the ground at Dubailand. (Silvia Razgova/The National)
An external scaffolding collapsed on a residential building, sending several men falling to the ground at Dubailand. (Silvia Razgova/The National)

Three construction workers died and more than a dozen were injured this weekend when scaffolding at worksites in Abu Dhabi and Dubai collapsed after a weekend of high winds and rain.

In Abu Dhabi, five men fell from a building under construction next to the Euro Hotel on Muroor Road on Friday after the scaffolding collapsed for the second time in two days. Police said one of them died.

In Dubai, two workers died and nine were injured yesterday when the scaffolding at a Dubailand site collapsed.

Although official investigations into the causes are continuing, safety experts say high winds in the capital and scattered rains overnight in Dubai may have played a role.

“We issued a warning on Wednesday that the UAE would be experiencing active winds on Saturday and Sunday,” said a duty forecaster at the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS).

“We informed the [National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority] people that there will be an active wind, causing the temperature to fall and sand to blow, reducing visibility,” the forecaster said.

Weather conditions across the Emirates are expected to continue to deteriorate over the next two days. Meteorologists have issued warnings for rain in the north, high winds across the UAE and rough seas.

“I advise managers to halt construction,” said the NCMS spokesman, who added that managers should call the centre’s hotline on 02 2227377 for updates.

In Dubai, scaffolding around a nine-storey building being constructed by Al Qandeel Contracting on Dubai-Al Ain Road collapsed some time after 10am yesterday.

Witnesses said hundreds of labourers were at work on the residential tower in Dubailand at the time.

A spokesman for Dubai Police CID said officers were notified of the accident at 10.45am yesterday.

A large number of ambulances and rescue teams rushed to the site. Rescue dogs were on the scene, searching for more bodies that might have been trapped under the debris.

Injured workers were taken to Rashid Hospital by helicopter.

“I thank God that I am alive,” said the Indian worker Ashwini Kumar, adding he held on to a pipe to survive. “The scaffolding collapsed like a pack of cards. I shivered in fear that I would be dead.”

Mr Kumar said between 30 and 40 workers were on the scaffolding when it fell.

“People were screaming and shouting as it fell. Some people were pulled out of the rubble to be taken to the hospital. It was a frightening scene,” he said.

Mr Kumar said most of the workers at the Dubai site were from India and Bangladesh.

A police officer at the Dubai site confirmed two workers had died. Later in the day, a spokesman for the CID said that six had suffered serious injuries and three “intermediate” injuries. Another man suffered only slight injuries, he said.

“Investigations are continuing to find the cause of the accident,” the spokesman said.

An initial investigation suggested there was not enough support for the scaffolding and safety regulations were not fully followed, he said.

Police are questioning several people including the site engineer but no one has been detained, the police spokesman said, adding Dubai Municipality would issue a technical report on the accident.

Several people witnessed Friday’s fatal accident in the capital, which happened about 10.30am before morning prayers.

“I was told one Indian man fell off the building. There were so many police cars, ambulances and fire lorries,” said Mohammed Khader, 22, a cashier at a nearby grocery store. “I went to the site and saw two men on the ground.”

Workers at the site confirmed the dead man was from India.

Shabir Kandy, 24, another cashier at a local grocery store, said at least five people fell off the building when the scaffolding collapsed between the two identical, 12-storey residential buildings that are in the final stages of construction.

A site engineer who witnessed workers “jumping from cradle to cradle” said he suspected a lack of safety measures was to blame.

“The scaffolding fell on Thursday [the day before Friday’s fatal collapse], between 4.30pm and 5pm, but nobody was injured in that accident,” said Rakesh Kumar, 28, a site engineer at a building site across the road.

A nearby doorman who witnessed the accident in the capital, but did not wish to be identified, said: “They were only there to remove the paper on the windows, because the building was complete.

“But five of them were there, so the block they were standing on outside the building crumbled under their feet and they all fell.”

Abu Dhabi Police said the incident was being investigated. The Ministry of Labour said it was awaiting the final report from police before conducting its own investigation into any liability on the part of the developers.

“We at the ministry will ensure that the workers who were injured are compensated and make sure that they receive the necessary health care,” a spokesman from the ministry said of the Abu Dhabi accident.

“We will also ensure that the company provides them with the necessary sick leaves and not to rush them back to work.”

The ministry spokesman said that once the investigation was over, the workers would have the choice of continuing to work at the site or returning home. He said families of the deceased would be compensated.

“The company will not be allowed to continue work at the construction site until a full inspection is run there,” he said.

Dr Adan Abbas, the head of the Abu Dhabi morgue, has said deaths of construction workers were common.

“We get a few bodies every week,” Dr Abbas said. “They are usually due to falls.”

In Dubai, the casualties were more numerous because hundreds of workers were at the site when the scaffolding, which extended from the first to the seventh floor, crumbled.

At the time, the workers were on several different levels painting the outside of the building and affixing glass. The site had been sealed off yesterday as the investigation continued.

An official from Dubai Municipality said it was carrying out investigations into the accident with the help of Tecom, which oversees free zones such as Dubai internet City and Media City, because the building came under Tecom’s purview.

“It’s too early to comment on what caused the scaffolding to collapse,” the official said. “A team of officials from the municipality are at the site doing the investigations.”