x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Swimmers injured in rough seas

Police said none of those injured appeared to have sustained life-threatening injuries. Hospitals unable to confirm the condition of the victims

DUBAI // A dozen swimmers had to be pulled from the sea by police rescue officers yesterday as scores of beachgoers ignored warnings of strong wind and currents.

Nine incidents occurred at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach, near the Burj Al Arab, with the remainder at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Police said none of those injured appeared to have sustained life-threatening injuries. Hospitals were unable to confirm the condition of the victims.

One of the injured swimmers, a man believed to be of south Asian descent, was rescued at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach at about 1.30pm and taken to Rashid Hospital.

"They cleared the beach and put him on a stretcher," said Roberto Vinan Nooiloos, a Dutch national who witnessed the incident. "He was given oxygen and taken to the ambulance. I don't know whether he was alive."

Rescue police intensified their patrols of public beaches after the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology issued a high waves and wind warning and urged swimmers and small boats to avoid the water yesterday and today.

Winds exceeded forecasts and gusted at 28kph off the coast.

Two rescue teams patrolled at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach, an open stretch next to the Burj Al Arab.

Police describe this stretch of beach as the "most problematic", with 30 incidents of swimmers needing rescue during the past two years.

On March 4, Haja Mohammed Ismailuddin, 26, from India, drowned while swimming at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach and two of his friends were seriously injured.

Despite yesterday's risky conditions, scores of people, including children, took to the water along the Dubai coast.

"I think it's okay if you can swim," said Gavin Murphy, a British national at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach. "Most of the people who get in trouble are those who are not strong swimmers."

Nearby, the Surf Club Dubai continued to rent surfboards to the public and many were taking advantage of the waves, even though an ambulance had been on the beach a little less than half an hour earlier to rescue the Asian swimmer.

"There's a bit of a rip in the water," said Teho Alepoudakis, a 16-year-old surfer from Greece, referring to the undercurrent. "It's not dangerous though, if you know how to surf."

Others stayed well clear of the water. Rowan Stanley, 40, from Ireland, said the current was daunting.

"When you get up to your waist you can feel the pull of the current trying to take your legs away," he said. "Once you get out of your depth, it can get pretty dangerous."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Wafa Issa