Emirati jet ski riders and scuba divers put skills to test during storm rescues

Jamal Al Janahi and Saud Al Nuaimi rallied together a 40-strong team of volunteers to help flood-hit communities

Emirati jet ski champions aid car extraction during floods in Sharjah

Emirati jet ski champions aid car extraction during floods in Sharjah
Powered by automated translation

A team of Emirati volunteers, including jet ski racing champions and scuba divers, have been recognised for their role in helping stranded residents when the country was hit by its worst storms on record.

The 40-strong group of men and women came together to navigate flooded roads and streets to help bring food and medical supplies to people in waterlogged homes.

The grass roots response was mobilised by an impassioned plea for support sent out on WhatsApp when the country was lashed by nearly two years of rain in a single day last Tuesday.

“We have never had rain like this and I’m shocked like everyone, but to be honest, I’ve learnt that we can handle anything and whatever happens, we will be ready for it.
Jamal Al Janahi

Jet ski competitors Jamal Al Janahi, 33, and Saud Al Nuaimi, 37, both from Ajman, were determined to use their sporting prowess to help others out.

“I’ve always loved to help. Ever since I was young, if anyone’s car was stuck anywhere, I would get my car and help pull them out,” said Mr Al Janahi.

The father-of-three also used his off-road SUV to battle through rough terrain made largely inaccessible by the unprecedented deluge.

“Helping others is what I have always done and want to die doing,” he said.

“It isn’t only about being Emirati; it's about being human.”

Flood threat

The quickly-assembled group pinpointed the Al Suyoh district in Sharjah, which was among the worst hit.

“I knew that there were areas that would be difficult for the armed forces and military vehicles to reach easily, so I put out a call to all my friends to ask everyone who owned a jet ski or a boat to help the residents,” said Al Janahi.

“There would be hundreds if we didn’t stop. Everyone wanted to be part of it; everyone wanted to be with the government while they were assisting others.”

The small army of helpers worked for three days on boats and jet skis, travelling as far as Ajman and Dubai.

“Some needed their medications or their phones. We made sure they had what they needed,” he said.

Rising to the challenge

“We have never had rain like this and I’m shocked like everyone, but to be honest, I’ve learnt that we can handle anything and whatever happens, we will be ready for it.

“This is a desert country that has experienced more rain in one day than most countries experience in a month, and in less than a week, everything has gone back to normal. We unite during hardships and we come back stronger,”

The group included divers who descended into the floodwaters to open doors jammed due to the heavy rain.

Fellow jet ski rider Mr Al Nuami works for Dubai Police, but offered his support as a volunteer and not in his official capacity.

'We were all united: UAE nationals, expats, men and women, both young and old. We were a family who wanted to help one another. This is humanity and the love of your country," he said.

'We wanted to be side by side with the police, the civil defence, and the army while they did their job. Everyone wanted to contribute and help in their own way.”

His priority was to ensure lives were not lost in the treacherous weather, even if property fell by the wayside.

“If there was one goal, it was that no lives were lost in all of this because everything else can be replaced,” he said.

For the families who wanted to go back to their homes to retrieve belongings, Al Nuaimi would first ensure the house was safe for them to enter.

He would then accompany them inside and transport them back to their temporary accommodation.

Show of solidarity

Abdulrahman Al Hammadi's family, including his 65-year-old mother, leapt into action when the intense rains hit in Al Suyoh. They offered food, blankets and towels to residents – including young children who were shivering in fear.

Mr Al Hammadi received a frantic call from his sister, telling him her house was flooded.

“When I made sure my sister and nephews were safe, we got our boat and started to see if anyone needed help,' he said.

Mr Al Hammadi helped evacuate stricken residents on his boat, handing them over to armed forces members who will able to provide shelter in hotels.

Mr Al Hammadi helped evacuate a heavily pregnant woman who was in her last term.

"The bottom floor of her house was flooded, and I was worried that she would slip, and I knew it would be hard for her to climb up on to a boat, so we made a trail of tables that she could walk over until she reached the boat,” he said.

The team also got calls to come to the aid of pets caught up in the floods.

"We had so many calls from residents who wanted their cats or birds and even fish. For me and my family, we wanted not only to help evacuate but for everyone to be as comfortable as possible."

He remembers a young girl, aged about nine, who cried out to him, fearing she would die.

"I told her that nobody was going to die and lifted her up on my shoulders and put her on the boat,” he said.

"I didn't want us to lose any souls because that is the one thing that can't be replaced. I really didn't care about my own safety or all the damage or anything else.”

His sister, Hanan Al Hammadi, said it was a natural Emirati trait to give your all to help others.

“Helping others is an instinct that is in Emiratis and our family,” she said.

“If my father wasn't bedridden, he would be outside with us helping everyone.

“This is Emirati; we are here for one another; we sacrifice ourselves for others, and we unite.”

Sharjah hit by severe storms – in pictures

Updated: April 29, 2024, 1:46 PM