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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

UAE volunteers to the rescue of stranded victims in the desert

For nearly two decades, Emirati Ali Al Shammari has been saving people from remote areas 

RAS AL KHAIMAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JUNE 07 – 2018 :- One of the paraglider of UAE Rescue team giving demo at the Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Nawal
RAS AL KHAIMAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , JUNE 07 – 2018 :- One of the paraglider of UAE Rescue team giving demo at the Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Nawal

When an exciting trek into the desert turns dangerous, a group of volunteers steps in to help stranded thrill seekers suffering from thirst and fatigue.

Founded by Emirati Ali Al Shammari, the UAE Rescue group has helped thousands of residents and tourists who went camping or dune bashing but were unprepared for the harsh desert environment.

“A lot of drivers see videos of dune bashing and think it’s easy,” said Mr Al Shammari about drivers who are overconfident and ill-prepared to drive in the shifting sand.

“Some are stuck without fuel or because they do not prepare their vehicles and adjust the tyre pressure.”

A former military officer, Mr Al Shammari has been rescuing people for the last two decades from remote and desert areas.

Some 180 volunteers across the emirates have joined his rescue team and saved people whose vehicles were stuck in the sand.

“A lot of people who camp and go dune bashing in the desert are unprepared for an emergency situation,” he said.

“Sometimes their vehicles break down and recovery services charge a lot of money. One person told me that he contacted a recovery service and waited for a long time but no one showed up. Another person said the recovery company charged him Dh7,000 for pulling his vehicle out of sand in the rains. Also there are few car recovery services providing facilities in remote areas.”

Victims call for help from the volunteer group that has its contact details posted on Instagram. There are no charges collected by the volunteers who collaborate with the Ras Al Khaimah police in getting victims to safety.

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“I have witnessed some cases when a person gets trapped in the desert and loses consciousness due to dehydration,” said Major Tareq Mohammed Al Sharhan, director of the emergency department at Ras Al Khaimah Police and a member of UAE Rescue.

“It is impossible to dispatch police patrol to all desert areas so the rescue group has a great role to play.”

Videos of dozens of people assisted by UAE Rescue have been posted on the group’s Instagram account.

Some pictures show vehicles that have flipped over. In one video, a father thanked the group for helping his family stuck in the Sweihan desert. Another said he had struggled for hours trying to move his vehicle.

The team stay connected via mobile messaging apps and share details, videos and photos of the emergencies they handle. They update each other about the location of the incident.

When the team receives a message they dispatch the nearest volunteer. The team first finds out whether anyone suffers from dehydration and asks for a photograph of the vehicle.

Mr Al Shammari advised desert lovers to follow three key points and deflate car tyres before driving on sand dunes, fill up the gas tank and keep a first aid kit handy.

Police teams too issue warnings to residents who go off-road that they must be equipped with a satellite phone, torches and tools to help lift a vehicle out of the sand.

The volunteers do not confine their rescue efforts to the desert where they tow cars, set right overturned vehicles, deliver water and medical supplies. They have also saved victims from drowning at sea.

UAE Rescue also pitches in to clean up litter from beaches and dunes. The group cleared 10 tonnes of waste near the Al Hamra area in Ras Al Khaimah last week.