OUM AZZA, MOROCCO // Difficult terrain is hampering the search for Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose glider crashed into a Moroccan lake on Friday. Moroccan authorities were still searching yesterday for Sheikh Ahmed, the managing director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the emirate's large sovereign wealth fund, and a younger brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
The lake is near Oum Azza, a farming village that Sheikh Ahmed visited regularly in recent years. A UAE search and rescue team said yesterday the operation was being affected by conditions at the man-made lake, in a statement released by the state news agency, WAM. Sheikh Ahmed went missing on Friday when a glider he was in crashed into the lake, east of the capital, Rabat, beside a waterfront estate where the sheikh had been staying.
The aircraft's pilot, a Spaniard, was rescued shortly after the crash and taken to a Rabat hospital, said a representative of the Spanish Embassy, referring to the man as a co-pilot. According to its statement, the rescue team left the Emirates for Morocco on Friday and is continuing its search at Sidi Mohammed ben Abdellah dam, near the Moroccan capital. The team was quoted as saying the search is "extremely difficult" due to the "difficult terrain" surrounding the site, which it said consists of rivers, mountains and marshes.
The condition of the pilot was "good and stable", the statement added. It remains unclear how the accident happened. Sgt Ryan Reid, a police search-and-rescue diver from Cheshire Constabulary's North West police underwater search unit in the UK, said the biggest factor influencing recovery operations is information from witnesses. "If an eyewitness can identify an area to search within the lake, then that will help a great deal," he said.
"If you have a witness who can identify where the crash took place, that will speed things up. If not, then you have to search the whole area." Among witnesses to the crash were local fishermen. Some of Oum Azza's several hundred residents venture onto the lake in rowboats to earn extra money through fishing, locals said. Since Friday, most have been taking part in the search. The incident is the third of its kind in the past few weeks in the Rabat area. Two police gliders had previously crashed, according to Alarabiya.net.
A gardener employed at the estate, Said, said he returned from noon prayers at the local mosque last Friday to find the household in a panic because of the crash. "Sheikh Ahmed is known for his generosity and people around here like him," he said on Saturday while resting on a roadside near the complex. Yesterday, security officials blocked access to the estate. email@example.com * With additional reporting by Charlie Hamilton in Abu Dhabi