Sewage leak caused water contamination at Ajman tower block

Ajman Municipality confirms source of outbreak as Crown Prince of Ajman sets up task force to investigate incident

Members of Ajman Police paid a visit to patients receiving treatment in hospital after a water contamination outbreak in Ajman. Courtesy Ajman Police
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A sewage pipe leak caused a water contamination outbreak that left hundreds seeking hospital treatment, Ajman Municipality has confirmed.

More than 250 residents of four tower blocks in the emirate suffered nausea and vomiting over the weekend.

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.

Humaid Al Mualla, acting director of health and safety, said tests carried out in the wake of the incident revealed sewage water had entered the water supply.

“We received a call from one of the hospitals reporting numbers of residents falling sick from a a building in Ajman and our teams immediately were dispatched, emptied the tanks and took samples,” Mr Al Mualla said.

He said tests proved sewage water had leaked into one of four ground tanks.

“Measures have been taken and after the source of contamination was discovered, all pipes and tanks have been sterilised, and the taps in all flats of the building were left open to drain any contaminated water.”

He said investigations were still ongoing and urged residents to report any incidents of suspected water contamination.

On Monday, Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman, set up a committee to investigate the cause of the environmental health scare.

The task force - made up of a host of authorities including Ajman Police and health and municipality officials - was given a one-week deadline to submit a report on the incident.

Sheikh Ammar ordered that an alternative water supply be made available to tenants until the issue was resolved.

He directed 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.

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.

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.

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.”