Crown Prince of Ajman intervenes in water contamination scare

More than 250 residents of four tower blocks suffered from nausea and vomiting

Salam Al Amir / The National
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The Crown Prince of Ajman has intervened in a contaminated water scare that left hundreds of people seeking hospital treatment.

More than 250 residents of four tower blocks in the emirates suffered nausea and vomiting on Saturday.

Thumbay Hospital in Ajman received 107 patients between Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning, 10 of whom were admitted for treatment.

Meanwhile Khalifa Hospital dealt with 143 cases and 34 patients were taken to Amina Hospital.

On Monday, Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the Crown Prince of Ajman, ordered an ambulance be kept on standby at the towers in case further residents needed assistance.

He also instructed officials to open an office dedicated to helping victims find alternative accommodation while authorities investigated the cause of the outbreak.

“They [the patients] suffered from vomiting, diarrhoea and fever,” said Dr Essam Atta, associate director of medical affairs at Thumbay group’s healthcare division.

“The diagnosis was acute gastroenteritis and dehydration. We provided treatment and patients started to feel better shortly after taking the medication.”

Residents of the four, 23-storey towers, first began falling ill at the weekend.

Patients suffered from high temperatures, vomiting and intestinal pain after using tap water for washing, cooking and cleaning.

Among those rushed to Thumbay Hospital was nine-month-old child. The oldest patient to receive treatment was a 69-year-old Indian national.

Amina Hospital also dealt with 34 residents – three of whom were admitted – while the Saudi German Hospital treated a mother and her two children.

Speaking to The National, a number of victims said they began feeling unwell after using tap water to brush their teeth, perform ablution before prayer or after washing their groceries.

“I used tap water on Friday afternoon to pray Al Asr and a few hours later I started feeling nauseous,” said Firdous Choudhury, 17, who was discharged from Thumbay Hospital on Monday.

“I used tap water to wash our rice,” said Rizvana Mazher, 45, whose three children all fell ill after finishing the meal.

Residents also revealed how they had been forced to spend hundreds of dirhams on hotel accommodation while repairs to the towers were being carried out.

They said some victims had complained of a strong smell of sewage coming from the water last week but had been told the maintenance team was on holiday.

Yawar Zeeshan, 40, said his two children fell ill on Saturday morning after taking a shower.

He and his family have now moved to a Dh300 a night hotel as well as having to pay Dh320 for medical treatment.

“Imagine the financial burden this problem has caused; we are not rich people,” he said. “Most of us in this building are hand-to-mouth breadwinners.”

Shahzad Syad, 39, from Pakistan, said his family had also fallen victim to the contamination and had moved to a hotel.
"The smell coming from [the water] taps was of sewage so I think the two had become mixed," he said.

Hospital officials reported the incident to Ajman’s municipality and planning department as more and more patients started to arrive with symptoms.

Maj Gen Sultan Bin Abdullah Al Nuaimi, commander of Ajman Police, said water samples had been taken and that the towers’ tanks had been emptied and sterilised.

“Samples were taken and sent to laboratories to determine the cause of [the] pollution,” Ajman Police said.

“All the ground and upper tanks [of the buildings] have been emptied, cleaned and sterilised.”