New safety rules to be introduced following tragic Dubai bus death

Mohamed Farhan Faisal, 6, was left on a bus in searing summer temperatures on Saturday

Mohamed Farhan Faisal and his father, Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi. Courtesy Karakunhi family
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Islamic Centres in Dubai are to introduce new bus safety regulations to prevent a repeat of the tragic death of a six-year-old last week.

Mohamed Farhan Faisal died after being left on a bus in searing summer temperatures on Saturday.

The boy was part of a private group of children visiting Al Manar Islamic Centre in Al Quoz when the incident occurred.

Authorities have since worked to prioritise a series of new measures to match existing federal regulations for school buses and help avoid similar fatalities.

The rules — agreed in conjunction with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority — will include designated supervisors on each bus, mandatory provision of first aid kits on every vehicle and the guarantee of fully functioning air-conditioning.

Dr Omar Al Khatib, executive director of the Islamic Affairs Department, said the changes would apply to all buses used to transport children to and from the 60 Quran memorisation centres and Islamic institutions in the emirate.

"We have agreed with the RTA that buses transporting pupils at Quran memorisation centres in the emirate are required to implement school transport standards," he told Aletihad newspaper.

“A circular will be issued within days to the centres to inform them about the procedures and requirements and to start implementing them right away.”

The funeral for Farhan, whose family is from Kerala, India, was held in Dubai on Sunday.

News of his death shocked the country, with parents and authorities calling for urgent action to address the issue of better supervision.

Temperatures in the UAE have reached upward of 48°C in recent days, as the region heads into the hottest months of the year.

The strength of the sun is considered so dangerous at this time of year that a mandatory midday break law ensures all outdoor workers are allowed time off between 12.30pm and 3pm each day from now until September 15 to avoid the worst of the heat.

Outlining the proposed new regulations, Dr Al Khatib said he and his colleagues were doing everything possible to assist with an ongoing investigation into Farhan’s death.

He said key changes would include the presence of supervisors on each bus to ensure all children got on and off vehicles safely. He also said parents would be provided with contact details for staff so they were able to stay in regular contact with them.

Other changes included supervisors being given safety and first-aid training to allow them to better tackle emergencies if they arose.

Mohamed Farhan Faisal, 6, died on a bus outside the Al Manar Islamic Centre in Dubai. Courtesy: Dubai Police
Mohamed Farhan Faisal, 6, died on a bus outside the Al Manar Islamic Centre in Dubai. Courtesy: Dubai Police

First-aid kits would also be issued for each bus and air-conditioning systems introduced to ensure temperatures are kept at 24°C.

“Our role is to provide logistical support and any information required by the investigating entities,” Dr Al Khatib told the Arabic-language newspaper.

“In addition [we will be] providing reports related to the centre’s compliance with rules and regulations.

“The investigation is still under way, and the management of the Islamic Institutions Department is following up and is in constant contact with the relevant authorities. We are ready to support and help.”

Dr Al Khatib said any institution or memorisation centre that failed to comply with the new regulations would face heavy sanctions.

“This will start with a warning, then a written letter and fines, [and culminate in] withdrawing the centre’s licence and [its] closure,” he said.

“The penalty will be gradual depending on the extent of the offence.”

Dr Al Khatib did not go into detail about what penalties, if any, would be imposed in relation to Farhan's death.

“We will not anticipate events by signing a penalty and imposing certain measures against the centre,” he said. “We will wait for the Dubai Police report and we will decide accordingly what can be done.”

This week, Farhan's father told The National that he blamed his son's death on "negligence from the driver and the [company] administration".

Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi, 50, said all bus drivers, especially those who transport children, should receive immediate training to search their vehicles in case a child had been left behind on board.

“Someone should check the bus after all the children have left,” he said. “There are laws but these are not being implemented.”

Safety measures for school buses were rolled out across Dubai and the Northern Emirates in 2017. It is not clear, however, if the regulations applied to the vehicle hired by Al Manar Islamic Centre because it was not an official school bus, according to the RTA.