Powerless in Sharjah

SHARJAH — An Indian labourer died of heatstroke and at least 30 others were admitted to hospital on Tuesday, as power outages in Sharjah’s industrial areas deprived workers of any respite from the heat.


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Published: Wed 21 Jul 2010, 12:22 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:52 PM

Nelova Quresh, head of the emergency section at Al Kuwaiti Hospital in Sharjah, said that the 27-year-old man was in a bad condition when he was brought to the hospital’s ICU, and died in the afternoon.

The death follows chaotic scenes on Tuesday in Sharjah as power outages caused traffic signals to stop working and businesses to close early.

The emirate’s streets were jammed with cars as residents sought relief from the heat, which according to the Dubai Met Office reached 41 degree Celsius.

An official at Al Kuwaiti Hospital said the number of heatstroke cases among construction workers has increased by 40 per cent compared to last year. The number had shot up since industrial areas of the emirate began to face intermittent power cuts two days ago.

“The last two days we have seen more cases because of the power outages. Every day we receive between 30 to 50 workers suffering heat exhaustion and stroke,” said the official, who declined to be named.

The emirate has been largely free of power cuts for the past one month. However, Tuesday’s cuts were widespread, moving during the night from the already hit industrial areas of the emirate to residential areas.

The stifling heat, which can often reach 35 degrees C at night, caused many labourers to leave their shared rooms during the night.

“We had to sleep in the pavement, as it was very hot in the rooms of our accommodation,” said Shah Mirza, who lives in Industrial Area No 11.

Ghafoor Rahman, another labourer in the same accommodation, said that the number of people sharing the room made sleeping difficult. “The power goes off and on all night and we couldn’t even breathe with a big number of people in the room without AC,” he said.

An official of the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) said that power outages were due to increased demand. “The authority recently augmented the capacity of power transmission from 220KW to 400KW to meet the demand,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

“There are technical failures in the main plants which will be solved soon.”

The power outages caused traffic signals to falter in Jamal Abdul Nasser Street and the emirate’s industrial areas, and police patrols were deployed to direct vehicles.

However, the signal failures caused tailbacks and jams throughout the emirate, as residents left their apartments and drove aimlessly on the streets in their cars.

Rughia Suliman, who lives in a residential tower in Al Qasimiya, said lifts were not working in her block.

“I live on the 10th floor of our building. I can’t climb the steps as I have a heart disease,” she said.

The Civil Defence rescue team said they are prepared to respond to calls from people trapped in elevators.

Even at 8pm power was not restored in some areas of Al Buteena area. Families with children and sick people waited anxiously on the ground floor while some got stuck in lifts.

Manhil Ali, an engineer of a building consultancy, said they had to leave their office in Al Qasimiya and stay on the street, as all computers went off in the office.

The official at Al Kuwaiti Hospital said that it was important for supervisors to look for signs of heat exhaustion among those who were working outside.

“Heat stroke can be fatal in many cases because it happens so quickly, and there is not much time to react, so that workers who are exposed to the sun and heat more than eight hours are in danger,” he said.


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