Deadly fog descends on nation's roads

Two people were killed and several more injured in five separate accidents early yesterday morning.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES ñ Dec 24: People waiting for the bus near Nad Al Sheba in a foggy weather in Dubai.. (Pawan Singh / The National)  *** Local Caption ***  PS02- FOG.jpg
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Two people were killed and several more injured in five separate accidents early yesterday morning, as motorists continue to struggle with driving in thick fog. In Abu Dhabi, one motorist died and five were injured in five separate road accidents in the remnants of a dense fog that descended overnight. The fog quickly spread to Dubai, where a young Emirati motorcyclist died hours after hitting a kerb and lamppost on Al Rabat road in the direction of Festival City. Police said low visibility could have been a factor in the crash.

When three vehicles collided on Tarif Road, one car was engulfed in flames, killing one and injuring two. Two lorries collided on Trucks Road, injuring two people who were taken to Al Mafraq Hospital. In Al Gharbia, police halted all lorry traffic to prevent any accidents. Col Hamad Adil al Shamsi, the head of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic and patrol department, urged all drivers to pay extra attention to avoid accidents. A spokesman for Dubai police asked motorists to take their time and use fog lights instead of their hazards.

"We are asking motorists to contact local media, such as radio stations, when they notice fog forming so everybody else who is driving or thinking of driving that particular road are aware of it," he said. He also appealed for drivers not to tailgate. Susan Guilford, a British expatriate who drove to Dubai from Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night, said the fog was the worst she had ever seen. "It came in stages but was particularly heavy near Ghantoot," she said. "It was so bad cars were pulling over at the side of road and there was one accident with three cars and an ambulance, but the visibility was so bad I do not know what happened."

The same location was the scene of one of the biggest accidents in UAE history last March, when 200 cars piled up in heavy fog, setting vehicles alight, killing six and injuring more than 350 people. Matt Seirfert, who was involved in the accident that later became known as Fog Tuesday, delayed his trip yesterday morning. "I looked out the window and saw fog and I know what happened the last time I drove in conditions like that," he said.

"Luckily there was not too much traffic because a lot of people have taken holidays. "If it was two weeks ago, it could have been a much different story." A spokesman for Dubai International Airport's meteorological office said the fog formed in the centre of the UAE at about 10pm on Tuesday night. A south-westerly wind carried it across the desert to Abu Dhabi and then towards Dubai. Arif Mehmood, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at the UAE University who has done research into improving road safety, said motorists needed to learn to drive cautiously when fog hits.

"The awareness level is quite low," Mr Mehmood said. "They think that it is not really a big issue that they should slow down. They think that they are well experienced and they are well confident of the situation, although in reality they are not." Lt Ahmed al Hajeri, an official with the Abu Dhabi Police public safety department, said last month that new measures were in the works to improve safety in fog. They include installing low-voltage floodlights along Abu Dhabi's motorways, sending motorists text messages warning them of fog and having police escort motorists during fog.