x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Still hope for missing freediver, says family

UAE champion Adel Abu Haliqa disappeared during training dive off the Greek island of Santorini in June

Mr Abu Haliqa, 40, had been training for September's AIDA Individual Depth World Championship 2011.
Mr Abu Haliqa, 40, had been training for September's AIDA Individual Depth World Championship 2011.

ABU DHABI // The family of the UAE freediving champion Adel Abu Haliqa is still clinging to hope that he might be found alive, almost two months after he went missing during a dive off the Greek island of Santorini.

Mr Abu Haliqa, 40, had been training for September's AIDA Individual Depth World Championship 2011 in Greece on June 7 when he went missing during a dive to 70 metres.

Mr Abu Haliqa's older brother, Hussain, 53, travelled to Greece on June 9 and hired an Athens-based private company to conduct a comprehensive search using a camera attached to an underwater robot and air surveillance by helicopter.

The search was called off without success, three weeks after he disappeared, but the family is not giving up.

Hussain returned to Abu Dhabi in June but flew back again to Greece last month, spending another two weeks following up with the Greek authorities.

"It's been a long time and his body has not been found," said Hussain, now back in Abu Dhabi. "We can't explain it but we will always keep on hoping."

He said search operations ended in the first week of July, but he remains in daily contact with officials from the UAE Embassy in Athens.

"The Greek authorities have not closed the case file yet," he said. "We are doing whatever we can to find Adel."

Hussain said he was prepared to travel to Greece at any time, if necessary. "But I have friends there who are monitoring the situation," he said. "The ships there are being told to keep a close watch."

He said it was important for the whole family to stay strong. "We have to hope for the best and cannot just believe that something bad happened to him," he said.

The UAE Government has been supportive from the beginning, Hussain said. "We are very weak and we can't see much. We're always hoping that Allah will bring him home safely."

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

"The family gathers every night to offer special prayers for Adel," Nada said. "And we share stories about people who have been lost at sea but returned after a long time. This gives us more hope of finding him."

Family and friends continue to post updates and news about the search and words of support and encouragement for Adel's family via the Twitter topic #adelmissing.

rruiz@thenational.ae