Rainy season not time to be adventurous: UAE explorers warn residents

Experts advise motorists to check the weather forecast and pay heed to advisories and warnings issued by authorities

File photo
File photo

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Sat 7 Jan 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 8 Jan 2023, 4:14 PM

As rains lash different parts of the country and authorities advise residents to stay away from flooded areas, seasoned explorers and rescuers in the country are issuing stark warnings.

“Rainy season is not the time to be adventurous,” warned Hatta resident Fahad Mayyil. “We see a lot of people who try to go into wadis during the rains and get caught in perilous situations. It is a disaster waiting to happen.”

On Friday heavy rains led to flooding in several wadis and the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) posted videos of water gushing down like waterfalls from mountains, especially in the country's northern parts.

Fahad recalled the time when he himself got stuck in a flash flood in Ras Al Khaimah’s Howailat area. “It happened while I was still a newbie explorer,” he said. “I was out on a rain drive at night. It is a road that has a steep dip and then rises again. As soon as I navigated the dip, the waters came rushing from all sides and before I knew it, the floods rose and there was no way to move.”

Fahad immediately exited his vehicle, like several others who were stuck there and moved to higher grounds. It took almost two hours before the water receded and he was able to recover his car. “It was a powerful lesson, and I was so thankful it didn’t get any worse,” he said.

A lifetime of navigating wadis

For Emirati Ali Al Shammari, dangers in wadis are something he takes very personally. In fact, it is an accident in a wadi that drove him to establish the UAE Rescue Group that has been instrumental in saving thousands on residents across the country. The former army personnel lost a neighbour and her young child to an accident while he was in Oman. “On that day I was determined to make sure that I would do everything in my power to make sure I could reach and save people who are stuck in such conditions,” he said.

According to Ali, the UAE Rescue Group gets several calls during rains. “We often try to get ahead and be on the ground,” he said. “We have saved hundreds of people stuck in wadis and flooded areas. However, very rarely when we are contributing to a search and despite our best efforts, we are not able to save someone, it is very heartbreaking.”

The most important advice Al Shammari had for people was to not be reckless. “Listen to authorities and do not go into low-lying areas,” he warned. “The danger of debris and the intensity and speed of water movement could be fatal.”

The UAE Rescue Group has coordinated with authorities in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah during floods for rescue operations. Since its founding in 2018, the group has rescued over 80,000 people from various precarious situations.

Going in groups

For Dubai-based adventure lover Mehnaz Rafeeque, a chance encounter during the rains proved as a timely reminder. “My husband and I were returning from a rain drive a few years ago when we found a family whose car had stuck in the muddy waters,” she said. “Luckily, we had all the equipment to pull them to safety. This was a reminder for us how rain drives can quickly turn into something dangerous.”

The family advises explorers not to go out during rainy weather alone. “Always make sure to go as a group,” she said. “It is also important to avoid all uneven areas and stick to the main roads. We have seen rocks come tumbling down from mountains during rainy season so we are very careful not to go next to the mountains either.”

Tips to stay safe during rainy weather

1. Avoid going to low-lying or mountainous areas: “It is the low-lying and mountainous areas that are most prone to flooding,” said Fahad. “So, it is important to avoid these during rains.”

2. Always go out in a group or inform friends/ family of whereabouts: According to Mehnaz, it is very important for those going out to go as a group or inform their family or friends about their whereabouts at all times.

3. Listen to authorities: Ali has cautioned explorers to check the weather forecast and pay heed to advisories and warnings set forth by authorities before venturing out

4. If stuck in a flash flood, abandon the car and move to higher areas: “The first response of most people is to try and save their vehicles,” said Fahad. “However, it is important for those who are stuck to leave the car and move to a higher area to ensure they don’t get washed away.”

5. Download UAE Rescue App: With over 300 trained volunteers available at any given time and advanced tools for search and rescue, the UAE Rescue app is a reliable tool in cases of emergency.

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