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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 March 2019

Wife’s prayers for free diver missing off Dubai coast

The wife of a an Algerian who went missing off the coast of Dubai last week is hoping his skills and experience will help him survive.

DUBAI // The wife of an Algerian free diver who went missing off the coast of Dubai last week is hoping that his experience and skills are keeping him safe even as the search entered the fourth day on Saturday.

Adel Ait-Ghezala, 35, a PhD student in international relations at the American University in Washington DC, was spearfishing with three of his friends 32 kilometres off Dubai Marina on Wednesday afternoon when he failed to emerge from the water.

“He’s very athletic and experienced,” said his wife, Rana Ghaleb, 32. “Those are the things we are counting on. There was a strong current that day. We are praying he’s drifted away and has swam somewhere.”

She said she was trying to cope with the situation.

“I am hanging in there. I have my on and off good moments. Our family and friends have flown in. I am praying and keeping the search up.”

An experienced free diver, Mr Ait-Ghezala was equipped with a wetsuit, flippers, goggles, spear gun and a specialised watch. The group had been out in the sea from noon in a private boat. The diver went missing about 3.40pm.

Ms Ghaleb, who attends the same university, was also on the boat but did not go diving.

She said: “He can hold his breath for six minutes. I wasn’t aware he was missing until our friends said he hadn’t come up. I started panicking after three minutes and we started looking in the water.”

A team of professional divers and the coastguard have been scouring the waters since. A helicopter was sent out on Thursday.

“On Friday, there was a huge volunteer effort from professional divers. There were a lot of people with equipment,” she said. “Many boats have been going out. They have certainly been searching far out.”

Regular visitors to Dubai, the couple had arrived on December 21 to visit friends and family. They were planning to leave for Oman this week to meet Mr Ait-Ghezala’s mother and return to the US on January 7. The family was in touch with local authorities.

Rescue efforts yesterday were hampered by choppy waters but the couple’s friends remained optimistic.

“The weather doesn’t help but everyone is trying their best,” said Abdullah Al Arian, a history professor at Georgetown University in Doha, who came from Qatar to support the family.

“We are trying to stay positive. We are hoping for the best. There is no evidence either way. We would be speculating otherwise.

“We are providing all the resources possible to help in his rescue. Time is critical. We have to move quickly.

“We have a team of experienced, volunteer divers going in every day. They keep expanding the search area. We can’t keep focusing on the same place.”

There was no comment from Dubai Police on the rescue operation.

pkannan@thenational.ae

Updated: January 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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