x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

'The roof flew off ... then the walls began to cave in'

Authorities rush aid to al Dari tribe in Al Ain where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in a matter of minutes.

AL AIN // Abdullah al Dari ran, panicked, to seek shelter with his wife and four children in his Toyota after his house collapsed around him and the roof blew off. He was helping his family into the pickup when powerful winds slammed the door behind him, showering the family with broken glass. "It was 2.30 in the morning and we were all sleeping" said Mr al Dari, 60.

"We were woken by screams from the house next door. Within seconds the roof flew off the house. Then the walls began to cave in and everything started flying around. "We were pummelled by rain, sand and flying debris. Many people were injured. My cousin, Salem, is in the hospital with broken bones in his face and a terrible cut on his cheek." Mr al Dari and about 200 other families comprise a 1,000-member tribe in Al Qua, near Al Ain, and they were badly affected by storms that have lashed the region the past few days.

The families live in ramshackle, aluminium huts held together with wire and nails. Many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in a matter of minutes. On Monday, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the Red Crescent Authority, ordered immediate aid for the Omani tribe, which has lived in Al Qua since 1996. Mohamed Khalifa Ahmed al Qamzi, the secretary general of the Red Crescent Society, said the authority had intensified its efforts to provide help through its branch in Al Ain and Al Qua.

Rashid Butti, the head of the Red Crescent Society's Al Qua office, immediately went to see the Al Dari tribe. "We have made the society's building into a makeshift shelter," Mr Butti said. "We also opened up some of the area schools for some families to stay in overnight. They have all been provided with tents, food, bedding, kitchen utensils and everything they need." The women and children of the community have taken advantage of the society's shelter. The men, however, have pitched tents where their homes used to stand.

"We're here to guard our belongings and rebuild," said Mohammed al Dari, 34. "We never expected anything like this could happen. We've been here for almost 15 years and never saw anything like this before. It felt like we were in a tornado."