x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Villagers rescue two stranded hikers in RAK

RAK Police sent a helicopter team to rescue the two Emiratis, but the aircraft struggled for a place to land in the steep terrain.

In a separate incident, RAK police evacuated 10 people from Wadi al Baih after the season's first rains last Thursday.
In a separate incident, RAK police evacuated 10 people from Wadi al Baih after the season's first rains last Thursday.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Two hikers stranded nearly 2,000 metres up a mountain, with no food or water and wearing only khandura and sandals, owe their helicopter rescue to a group of mountain-savvy villagers.

RAK Police sent a helicopter team to rescue the two Emiratis, but the aircraft struggled for a place to land in the steep terrain.

So Mohammed al Zaidi, one of the men on the rescue team, called his relatives in Wadi Ghalilah.

Five local men joined the police team, were lowered by rope down to the stranded hikers, and guided them to a safe place for the helicopter to land and take them to hospital.

Two of the hikers' friends had descended earlier. One suffered a fractured pelvis and was transferred to Khalifa Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

The residents of al Hab, a village in a boulder-strewn valley, said their knowledge of the mountain obliged them to help.

"Because they know the mountain, they must go," said Maryam Sultan, the wife of one of the rescuers. "Our fathers knew the paths in the mountains, where it was good and where it wasn't. We must help others who don't know the way."

Ms Sultan said she pushed her husband, Saeed Salem, 46, out the door when the call came for help.

"I sent him out so quickly I didn't even have time to say goodbye," she said. "I knew he would be safe; God is watching him. What God has written will be.

"I gave my husband a drink of water and he went to the helicopter as fast as he could. My husband quickly put on his shoes, got his rope and his water and left."

The helicopter was waiting at a dam across the road from their village by the time he was out the door.

Ms Sultan, a mother of nine, advised her children not to feel proud because anyone would have done the same thing.

Her son Mohammed, 11, responded by pulling his grade-seven social studies book from his bag and pointing to a photo of a helicopter with its pilot, Mohammed al Zaidi - the rescuer who had called for assistance.

"I want to work there one day," he said. "I want to be a police in a helicopter. I always bring lots of water and clothing. I know all the mountain routes."

"Not yet," his mother replied. "Not the high ones."

RAK Police carry out about four such rescue operations a year, and often call on mountain villagers for assistance.

"Some companies make maps for the tourist and they're not good maps," Saeed Yammahi, the head of the helicopter rescue unit, said. "The wadis change so much when the rain comes down that the valley looks different and when they come from outside the country they don't know the mountains.

"I advise people to register at the police station before they go."

RAK Police evacuated 10 people from Wadi al Baih after the season's first rains last Thursday.

azacharias@thenational.ae