Beachgoers kick up over lack of warning signs

Residents in Umm al Qaiwain say that besides lacking simple amenities, their waterfront fails to warn of dangerous waters

A stretch of the Umm al Qaiwain Corniche beach as it appeared earlier this year.
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UMM AL QAiWAIN // Residents are asking authorities to upgrade facilities at local beaches. They say the waterfront would be safer and more pleasant, with clear warning signs and basic amenities, such as toilets. The municipality has begun to address the matter, but not quickly enough for some.

Beaches, including the UAQ Corniche, have no signboards to warn swimmers of potentially dangerous areas. They also lack emergency services, public toilets, and entertainment areas for children, said Rashid Hamid, a beachgoer. Describing the UAQ Corniche beach, Mr Hamid, 35, a Emirati, said: "If you want to use the toilets you have to go to the nearest mosque and then come back. What kind of beach is this?"

Lt Col Hassan Ali bin Sallam, the head of UAQ Civil Defence, said signboards that once were prevalent in the swimming areas have been swept away by the tides because of a lack of maintenance. Replacement signs in Arabic, English and Urdu will be put up at an unspecified date. "We recently held a joint meeting with the municipality and we are looking towards restoring them very soon," he said.

However, the lack of warning signs is a concern for residents including Abdullah Ahmed, 30, who urged authorities to step up the safety signboards campaign so that could be replaced as soon as possible. "All the beaches in the UAE have these warning signs except here," he said. "What will happen if the water is not safe for swimming or some areas at the beach become dangerous?" Safety signs need to be installed so that people can be reminded to be careful while swimming. Installation of such notices can help swimmers avoid mishaps, Mr Ahmed said.

Lt Col bin Sallam said being responsible also helps to promote safety, urging swimmers not to go into deep water without lifejackets. Staying close to shore, where other people can easily see and assist bathers, is the best way to save lives, he said. "We have had most problems with children and youths," he said. "Some of them are not even good at swimming but they like to go far away in the waters. There may not be a lifeguard at every corner on the beach, but parents also have a responsibility to monitor their children and advise them on what is right and wrong."

Lt Col bin Sallam said that no drowning cases had been registered this year despite the absence of warnings. One Arab national was rescued in March and recovered after receiving first aid from rescue teams, he said. A spokesman for the municipality said Umm al Qaiwain had plans to redevelop its beaches, equipping them with fast-food restaurants, public toilets and children's play areas. "We shall do it as soon as we can," the spokesman said.