UAE: Rescue requests from desert explorers rise 10-fold in winter, group says

UAE Rescue Group has handled over 85,000 rescue requests in the last four years


Nasreen Abdulla

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Screengrab from a video shared by the UAE Rescue Group on Instagram.
Screengrab from a video shared by the UAE Rescue Group on Instagram.

Published: Sat 24 Dec 2022, 12:59 AM

Last updated: Sat 24 Dec 2022, 9:01 AM

As the winter and camping season has commenced in the country, the voluntary UAE Rescue Group has seen a 10-fold increase in the number of requests for help.

“Every day we get several reports from people who are stuck in the desert,” said Ali Al Shammari, founder of the group. “To be honest, we can’t even keep count because when we get a request and set out to rescue them, we meet at least two or three other cars on the way that need help. So, the actual number we help is much more than the requests we get on the app.”

Founded in 2018, the UAE Rescue Group has handled over 85,000 rescue requests in the last four years. It has also played a significant role, in cooperation with authorities, during the clean up after floods in Jebel Jais and Fujairah. The group has over 3,000 volunteers, with 300 of them available at any given time with highly specialised rescue equipment.

The group functions mainly through its app. Those requiring assistance can log their request on it and the volunteers closest to the site of the incident can respond. All volunteers can see each other’s location at all times.

Faisal Muslim, a volunteer with the group who lives in Ras Al Khaimah, said he had also received multiple rescue requests since the winter began. “Last week, I was just about to go to sleep when I noticed that there was a request on the app,” he said. “No one had responded to it so I went out and rescued them. It was an Indian family comprising a husband, wife and her father. They had gone desert driving but got lost. They had been stuck for four hours when I finally got to them.”

With the winter season kicking in, camping and off-roading sites in and around the country have become busy with explorers.

“Now is the time when newbie explorers set out,” said Dubai resident and seasoned off-roader Anish Mathew. “During summer, only experienced riders go out but during winter, every other person wants to try a bit of off-roading and you can’t really blame them. The weather is gorgeous.”

Mathew is part of a group on Telegram called Desert SOS where people who are stuck in the desert can seek help. “Ever since winter started, we have had a lot of requests,” he said. “Most of them get stuck near the Al Qudra area. Since I live close to it, I have done several rescues over the last few weeks.”

Five tips to stay safe on the sand

Check your vehicle properly: Use the services of an experienced technician or garage. Make sure to check the tyres, engine and battery.

Have the necessary equipment: The vehicle should at least have some basic equipment that will be helpful to get it out if it sinks into the sand.

Take enough food and water: Make sure to pack enough food and water to get through a few hours, in case the vehicle gets stuck somewhere. Also keep some warm clothes handy.

Inform your friends/family: It is essential to let your friends or family know you're going into the desert, especially if the camp site is in an area where there is limited network coverage. This will make sure that they can raise an alert if something untoward happens.

Download the UAE Rescue app: Have the UAE rescue app installed when going offroading. It has volunteers from all over the UAE available at all times.


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