UAE floods: emergency teams work round the clock to ensure everyone is safe

Rescue operations started on Tuesday night

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Emergency teams have helped to save hundreds of people in various flood-affected areas in Fujairah and Sharjah since Tuesday night, when rescue operations first began.

Police, armed forces, military, marine and land rescue departments as well as civil defence and ambulance services from across the UAE have been working round the clock to help those left stranded after the heaviest rainfall to hit the country in 30 years.

Officials said on Thursday that about 870 people had been rescued from flooded areas and at least 3,897 others whose homes were badly affected had been placed in temporary accommodation.

The roads we thought we knew well enough were no longer there
Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi, Dubai Police

Rescue team members, including divers from Dubai Police, arrived at an assembly centre in the Northern Emirates at about midnight on Tuesday.

Following a unified rescue plan, they were divided into smaller teams that each headed to different locations, responding to calls from people in distress.

“We headed out late at night on Tuesday when all relevant departments in the force were informed of the rescue operations,” said Lt Col Ali Al Naqbi, director of the sea rescue department at Dubai Police.

Equipped with ropes, rubber boats, SUVs and pickup trucks, the experienced teams began their search and rescue missions under the night sky.

“It was dark and the roads we thought we knew well enough were no longer there and we didn’t know what was beneath the water that covered them,” the director said.

Despite the obvious risks, they made sure to secure exit routes before bringing people to safety.

“One of our men became submerged because of a hole in a flooded street on one mission,” Lt Col Al Naqbi, added.

“We had to ensure the path we make didn’t have holes, snakes or any other hazards.”

Selfless gestures

Operation Loyal Hands helped with search-and-rescue operations and medical aid while also providing support to civil authorities in removing the effects of the torrential rain. Photo: MOD UAE

Rescuers were faced with several challenges as they waded through water carrying ropes and life-jackets, at times having to make human chains to secure safe passage for those in distress.

“All rescue team members from each emirate were working tirelessly and were only focused on the safety of people, even if it meant they didn’t get to rest,” Lt Col Ali Naqbi said.

Some worked for 24 hours straight, quickly eating dates, bananas and drinking water as they battled fatigue.

“[There are] countless stories of selfless gestures could have been recorded about rescuers during these operations but that was not their focus,” he said.

“They were all focused on one thing: bringing people to safety.”

He said the gratitude of people they helped, including the elderly, children, workers and motorists, was rewarding in itself.

“One old woman kissed the members of the rescue team on their foreheads, addressing them as her sons — that was priceless,” he said.

Strong military presence

Military personnel monitored the flooded streets on Friday in heavy-duty vehicles, looking for people who needed assistance as part of Operation Loyal Hands.

They transported families from their flood-hit homes to shelters and rescued motorists from their broken-down cars.

Driving through the streets, they checked on motorists they suspected might have stopped because of floods, only leaving after making sure each occupied car was still running and that the driver was able to exit the flooded road.

“This is our duty and we are here to help people,” said a military officer, who declined to be named.

Rescuers drove one family from their flooded home in Al Faseel in Fujairah to a relative's house that was located in a safe area of the emirate.

“We have been present since the floods started,” the officer said.

“And we will not leave until we make sure everyone has received the help they needed.”

Updated: July 31, 2022, 3:52 AM