Up to Dh2,000 fine: New UAE laws ban valley drives during rains; to deter ‘storm chasers’

Many people drive into these areas without realising how quickly water levels can rise and their vehicles can get caught in the strong currents, experts say

by

Sahim Salim

/

Ruqayya Al Qaydi

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Published: Fri 19 May 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 22 Oct 2023, 6:40 PM

[Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2023. It is being reshared to remind residents about the dangers and penalties associated with venturing to areas affected by unstable weather, as the UAE faces heavy rains and hail this week. ]

Rescue volunteers and experts have praised new UAE laws that penalise residents who put their lives in danger by heading out to valleys and mountainous areas during unstable weather conditions. Many residents indulge in what is known as ‘storm chasing’ when heavy rains hit the country. They deliberately venture out to areas that are prone to flash floods, despite warnings and alerts issued by the authorities.


On Thursday, the Ministry of Interior announced new rules that prohibit people from gathering near or enter flooded valleys or dams during rains and foul weather. Doing so now comes with fines of up to Dh2,000, 23 black points and confiscation of the vehicle for two months.

Many people drive into valleys without realising how quickly water levels can rise and their vehicles can get caught in the strong currents, experts said.


Talking to Khaleej Times, Ali Al Shammari, founder of the UAE Rescue Group, highlighted how the new rules and fines proactively addressed the recurring incidents that put people’s lives in danger.

"Our government's goal is not to impose fines, but to protect lives, which is a fundamental and necessary requirement. We hope that people will comply with these regulations,” he said.

Founded in 2018, the volunteer-run group has carried out several rescue operations across the country.

Al Shammari highlighted the risks that individuals face in valleys and mountainous areas during heavy rains.

“Many people are drawn to these locations due to their love for nature. However, they often remain unaware of the inherent dangers associated with such environments. Unstable slopes, landslides, and powerful currents pose significant threats, leading to tragic events that have occurred in the past,” he said.

The Emirati recalled the time when hundreds of people were trapped on the Jebel Jais — the UAE’s highest mountain — due to heavy rains and ensuing landslides. The team collaborated with the authorities in Ras Al Khaimah and worked around the clock in rescuing them.

Another volunteer, Khaleel Mon — who has been involved in rescue operations for over five years now — said he doesn’t understand why people venture out to dangerous areas despite warnings from the authorities. “These are people who go to valleys and dams when it rains. Some do so despite being aware of how quickly valleys can flood.”

He highlighted a rescue operation he was part of last year. About five families, including children, from Dubai got stranded in Wadi Shawka when heavy rains hit the country. “They had come in three vehicles, all of which got swept away. They took shelter under a tree before our volunteers rescued them.”

He stressed that the new laws are the need of the hour. “I was just reading the news about the new rules and I am very glad that they have been enacted. I hope people follow them. I reiterate that venturing into valleys during heavy rains is very dangerous.”

According to the Ministry of Interior, the new laws will enhance traffic safety during emergencies and when heavy rains flood valleys. “The objective of these amendments is to bolster the legal and institutional efforts of relevant authorities in times of emergencies, crises, disasters, heavy rains, and weather fluctuations. The amendments to the articles aim to reinforce existing procedures and underline the significance of adhering to instructions and safety requirements,” the ministry added.

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