x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Weather causes havoc across the Emirates

Sandstorms cut visibility, leading to a 23-car pile-up on the Dubai Bypass Road in which nine people were injured.

The Abu Dhabi skyline after high winds picked up.
The Abu Dhabi skyline after high winds picked up.

Rain, sandstorms and heavy winds yesterday caused chaos on the roads, halted work at construction sites and forced the postponement of sporting events.

The most serious incident happened on the Dubai Bypass Road when nine people were injured – one seriously – in a 23-car pile-up due, said police,  to speeding in reduced visibility. Several cars overturned and a number of the vehicles were knocked under lorries.

Some of the lorries contained flammable materials, which police feared would aggravate the situation. One person was seriously injured, while the rest suffered moderate to minor injuries.

There were eight reports of crashes in Abu Dhabi yesterday. None resulted in injury.

The bad weather, which is thought to continue over the weekend, was the result of a number of scattered low pressure systems that settled across the UAE, said the weather centre in Abu Dhabi.

Major General Khamis Al Mazeina, the deputy head of Dubai Police, said that Sheikh Hamdan, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, visited the accident scene shortly after it occurred and requested immediate action to transfer the injured people and remove the damaged vehicles.

Traffic was moving at a slow place on Emirates Road and Al Ain road, and panic-stricken pedestrians and outdoor workers were seen running for cover to escape the battering winds and incoming sandstorm.

"The wind was too much. Our site manager has asked to stop the work," said Lakshman, an Indian worker.

"It was indeed severe. I could not see anything for some time. It was too bad," said George Randell, a resident in Dubailand.

In Ajman, two construction workers were rescued from a temporary building lift that was swaying dangerously in high winds.

Civil defence crews went to a building site after being alerted by worried staff. The two men were trapped inside the lift and could be heard screaming for help.

"Our team managed to stop the lift and found that one worker had injured a leg," said Brigadier Saleh Al Matroushi, director general of Ajman Civil Defence. "The injured worker was taken to Sheikh Khalifa hospital."

Rescue teams were also sent to Ajman beach to warn people to stay out of the water.

The weather forced the cancellation of the Speed Cat Run scheduled on the sidelines of the final round of the 2012 UIM X-CAT World Powerboat Series at the Fujairah International Marine Club.

"It would be unwise to put the drivers and crews of the boats at risk with the winds gusting to nearly 25 knots," Mohammed Hareb, the race director, said.

It is hoped racing would go ahead today, though Mr Hareb said that race officials were monitoring the weather conditions on an hourly basis, given the fact that winds speeds are predicted to increase. "We have various options before us and we will take a decision closer to the race," Mr Hareb said.

"There was slight rain recorded in some parts of the UAE yesterday and instability will continue with a chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday," said a forecaster at the met office.

He said the weather would remain partly cloudy to cloudy today and urged the public to stay off the beaches.

"Wind blew up the sand into open areas and resulted in cloud formation, reducing visibility in many parts of the UAE. Seas will remain rough with waves reaching a height of eight feet offshore," he said.

Despite the weather, organisers of the Tri Yas triathlon and the Red Bull X-Fighters Dubai event said they would go ahead with their plans today.

The triathlon will be held at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi with more than 900 contestants and, although a practise run for the Red Bull X-Fighters had to be cut short yesterday, the event will go ahead at Jumeirah Beach Residences in Dubai, organisers said.