News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Indian worker run over by minibus

DUBAI — 16 May: Mujeeb Abdul Karim, a 26-year-old Indian national hailing from Kerala, was crushed to death when a minibus ran over him in Al Qouz industrial area early yesterday. The driver was arrested.

Mujeeb was trying to cross the road on a bicycle near New Madina Supermarket when the vehicle knocked him down. He died on the spot.

"I did not realise what had happened when I heard a noise on the road leading to the roundabout. It was a mind boggling scene to find a man crushed by a vehicle. Police rushed to the spot and an ambulance was brought to the accident site. Later they took the body to a police morgue," said an eyewitness.

The accident led to a traffic jam in the area and it took more than an hour for the traffic to normalise, he added.

The deceased, from Kannur district in Kerala, was working with Best Choice Industries in Al Quoz as a labourer since only a week.

Mustafa, uncle of the deceased, told Khaleej Times that Mujeeb had arrived in the UAE a week ago to support his family back home. "His parents were dependent on him and he arrived in the UAE to work and support his family to survive. We have informed the family about his tragic death," he said.

He added: "It was a shock for the family. I do not know how they will handle the situation. We have decided not to send the body to India. Instead as soon as the body is released by the police, we will carry out his last rites in Dubai."

No company official was available for any comment on Mujeeb's death.


Girl does not remember crash that killed friend

Dubai: 16 May: An Indian teenager is still in a state of shock and does not remember the traffic accident last Thursday that killed her best friend from school, the injured girl's mother said.

Fifteen-year-old Nikita Coelho yesterday underwent a second operation to fix her broken hip and doctors at the Rashid Hospital hope the recovery would be quicker because of her young age.

"She does not remember anything," said the girl's mother Asha Coelho, from her daughter's bedside in the trauma room. "She still is in a critical condition. We do not want anyone to come here and remind her."

Schoolmates from the Indian High School in Dubai have visited the injured girl, but her mother did not want them to tell her about the death of her friend.

Nikita's classmate Deanna Delphy Raveendran died in the accident that occurred on the Lehbab-Jebel Ali road last Thursday. Police said the car was speeding and a UAE national boy was at the wheel. The road leads to Al Ain.

"The driver lost control," said the police.

The body of the girl is expected to be taken today to Chennai in India after police investigations at the morgue in Al Ghusais.

An Indian boy in the group, who was visiting Dubai, is also at Rashid Hospital and in a very serious condition. The boy had earlier did his schooling in Dubai. A Pakistani youth apparently escaped with minor injuries. The UAE national boy is in police custody.

The girls had apparently not told their parents about the road trip and were supposed to be at the school's cultural programme.

Nikita's mother only heard about the accident from the brother of one of the injured boys. Her father was visibly upset and did not wish to make any comment.


Teachers and friends mourn Deanna's death

DUBAI — 16 May: Friends and teachers mourned the tragic death of Deanna Delphy Ravindran, a grade 11 student of the Indian High School Dubai, who was killed on Thursday morning when the car she was travelling in overturned on the Dubai-Hatta Road near Dragon Mart.

When Khaleej Times visited the school yesterday, IHS Principal, Ashok Kumar, said emotionally, "We lost a very good and disciplined student. It is a big tragedy for the school. We have yet to overcome the shock.”

A picture of Deanna has been placed in the school reception area for students and teachers to offer their condolences.

Anitha Mehra, a teacher in the school, recalled, "Deanna had been with the school for 11 years. She was always well behaved and pleasant and a quiet student." She added, "We cannot believe that she is no more in our amidst. We will always remember her as a good student."

M. Joe, another IHS teacher, echoed the same sentiments: "I was her class teacher for two years. She was a good student and never created any problems or mischief in school.”

Her classmates were visibly shattered by the news of Deanna's tragic death.

Nithya, her classmate for 10 years, said: "She was my best friend. I cannot control my tears ever since I learnt of her fatal accident. She was always very helpful to all her fellow students. She had a good knowledge of computers. And she used to participate actively in most school functions.”

Divya Anabalagan, another classmate, said: "We studied together for two years. She was hard working and polite to everybody."

Meanwhile, even as the school mourned the death of Deanna, Nikitha Coelho (also an IHS student) who had accompanied Deanne along with three boys on the ill-fated trip and was injured in the accident, is recovering in Rashid Hospital. One of the three boys, Huzaifa, who was seriously injured in the accident, is still in a critical condition and in the intensive care unit at the same hospital.

Hospital sources said his condition was critical and he is on ventilation because of injury to his lungs.

Meanwhile, the 20-year-old UAE national who was driving the car is in police custody and one of the boys who suffered minor injuries was discharged from hospital on Thursday.

Deanna's body, according to her father Ravindran, who has been a UAE resident since 1985, will be flown to Trivandrum soon. “We have yet to complete all necessary formalities for the repatriation of her body to India where her last rites will be performed.”

The distraught father disclosed his wife is unable to come to terms with the daughter's death. She was the younger of our two children, Ravindran added, who has a son older to Deanne.

A pall of gloom has descended on the family residing in Abu Shagarah in Sharjah. They have been receiving plenty of telephone calls sympathising with them on their child's death.

Commenting on why his daughter had to go to school on her day off, he said the school was hosting a charity event on its campus. According to a school circular, all senior students and class monitors were requested to be at school from 8am until 11.30am and later in the evening during the time of the event. Deanne, he added, had put on her school uniform and left for IHS around 6.30am.

Deanne was born and brought up in the UAE and studied at IHS since KG grade, according to one of her relatives, who however expressed some dismay that no one from the school visited the bereaved family in Sharjah. But, a school official said Mrs Thomas, Assistant Headmistress of IHS and a relative of Deanne, who was present with the family also represented the school.


Lens cleaning solution to be recalled

Dubai: 16 May: UAE health authorities are sending an official notice to pharmacies to stop selling a contact lens solution that has been linked to a rare blindness-causing fungal infection.

Bausch and Lomb, makers of the popular ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution, issued a permanent worldwide recall of the product yesterday due to a high incidence of Fusarium keratitis infections among its users. No direct link has been established.

The move follows a statement from the US health authorities that said a combination of the solution's formula and some other "unique factors" increase the risk of Fusarium keratitis infection.

UAE Minister of Health Humaid Al Qutami said pharmacies here will have to remove the product. "We are going to make it clear to the pharmacies and retailers to remove the product from the shelves," he told Gulf News yesterday evening. The ministry will also enlist the help of other authorities to remove the product, he added.

Dr. Mohammad Abuel-khair, drug consultant for the Abu Dhabi General Authority on Health Services (GAHS), told Gulf News his department was notifying pharmacies and retailers today to remove the product.

Al Jaber Trading Agencies, sole agent for Bausch and Lomb in the UAE, announced they will not refund any unsold stock of the product returned to them.

Ahmad Jaber, managing director of the company, however told Gulf News they would exchange the product with Multiplus contact lens solution, which came before the introduction of the ReNu line.

"Keep the contact lens solution and don't sell it. We will exchange the product phase by phase for everybody because there is not enough stock," he said.


Parking meters to be installed in Abu Dhabi for first time

Abu Dhabi: 16 May: The Abu Dhabi Municipalities and Agriculture Department is upgrading its parking system by installing meters which enable residents to pay for tickets via mobile phones, coins and prepaid parking cards, a senior official said yesterday.

"Work is underway in the central business district between Hamdan and Khalifa Streets to install parking meters, which will be functional on trial basis for three months as from July 1," said engineer Juma Mubarak Al Junaibi, undersecretary of the department.

No tariff has been fixed as yet, but a recommendation submitted to the Abu Dhabi Executive Council suggests that fees of roadside parking slots should be more expensive than that of underground parking to encourage motorists to use them, sources said.

"The parking meters will be connected to a control room at the municipality, so any violations of parking tickets will be sent straight to Abu Dhabi Traffic Police," a source said.

About 1,000 roadside parking slots will be turned into paid parking in the first phase, said engineer Saif Ahmad Al Qubaisi, assistant undersecretary of the department.

"The Abu Dhabi Municipality is offering an underground parking behind Zakher Hotel, which accommodates about 500 cars for free during road works," he added. "Each car will be allowed to park for a maximum period of 48 hours at a time in that." Al Qubaisi said traffic movement will be monitored round-the-clock to evaluate how successful the system is.

Payment: Motorists can use coin, card or phone

Motorists can pay using coins, prepaid parking cards or mobile phones.

To pay using a mobile phone, motorists will only have to send an SMS with the number of hours they wish to use the parking space and the area, and then automatically receive the ticket from the parking meter to place on the dashboard.

The telephone number receiving motorists' SMS is directly linked to a control room at the municipality, which will then be charged to the phone bill.


CIA planes used emirates airports’ in covert global ‘rendition’ programme

DUBAI — 16 May:As the US Central Intelligence Agency comes under increasing criticism for its controversial renditions programme and alleged network of secret 'black site' prisons, a Khaleej Times review of evidence presented against the CIA reveals emirates airports were used at least 13 times by the spy agency's fleet of aircraft.

Three aircraft publicly linked to the CIA — a Boeing 737, and two Gulfstream executive jets — made multiple take offs and landings from Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports, the evidence shows. All three planes are thought to have been used in the controversial practice of renditions - snatching suspects from one country and transporting them to detention facilities elsewhere.

A security official at Abu Dhabi airport last night denied the report, while an official at Dubai airport declined to comment.

The practice has attracted widespread criticism from human rights group after allegations prisoners were being 'disappeared' by holding them in secret CIA prisons in Europe, or were being taken to countries such as Egypt and Syria, where torture is allegedly used to extract confessions and information.

Last week, a group of European politicians investigating the scandal accused the US of trying to cover up the programme by refusing to cooperate with investigations. And intelligence agencies in Italy and Germany have now been dragged into the controversy after evidence emerged they had assisted the CIA's rendition operations.

According to records of approximately 3,000 flights obtained by Amnesty International and the research group TransArms, planes owned or chartered by the CIA and linked to the renditions programme, made stop offs in the UAE. The first plane, a Boeing 737, made a total of 5 stops in the UAE: four in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. The plane was first registered by a company called Stevens Express Leasing (SEL), then by Premier Executive Transport Services (PETS) and finally in 2004 by Keeler & Tate Management (KTM).

Amnesty says all three firms are front companies set up by the CIA.

SEL has a mailing address in Tennessee, but no physical office. PETS lists corporate officers who have no addresses other than PO Box numbers near Washington D.C and who apparently have no credit or publicly identifiable personal histories. KTM owns no other planes, no premises and has no website. Nevertheless, both SEL and PETS had, until 2005, licences to land at US military bases worldwide.

The Boeing 737 was used to take Khaled el-Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan in January 200, where he was held for five months before being dumped in Albania when the U.S. realized it had grabbed the wrong man.

El-Masri, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, is now suing the U.S. government claiming he was not only kidnapped, but tortured as well while in captivity.

A second plane, a Gulfstream V executive jet, was also run by PETS before being transferred to a company called Bayard Foreign Marketing which, according to Amnesty, is a 'phantom company' whose 'named corporate officer, Leonard Bayard, cannot be found in any public record.'

The Gulfstream made at least 590 landings and takeoffs between February 2001 and September 2005, including four in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi. The plane was put up for sale in late 2005, as per the evidence.

And "three flights were recorded in Dubai for a Gulfstream IV plane whose owners have admitted was leased to the CIA". The plane, which also held a licence to land at U.S. military bases, was allegedly used in the abduction of terror suspect Abu Omar. That rendition has resulted in Italy issuing 22

arrest warrants for CIA operatives implicated in Omar's abduction.

Omar was eventually taken by the CIA to Egypt. Vincent Cannistraro told Newsday newspaper in 2003 that an al-Qaeda detainee flown from Guantanamo Bay to Egypt was tortured. "They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling things," Cannistraro is quoted as saying.

Last week, members of a European Parliament committee investigating CIA activity in Europe travelled to the US to try and uncover more details.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice refused to meet them, as did former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

One of the MEPs, Italian Claudio Fava, said: "we came here with a mandate to find the truth and we got 'no comment' as a response." Two other MEPs, Jean Lambert and Cem Ozdemir issued a joint statement saying: "One thing to clearly emerge from this visit is the concerted effort on the part of the U.S. administration to keep a lid on the issue of CIA abuses.

Officials have been pressured not to cooperate with the investigation." The committee plans to hold a formal press conference about its findings tomorrow (Tuesday May 16).

John Bellinger, a legal advisor to Condolezza Rise, has dismissed the allegations over CIA renditions activity as 'absurd'.

Bellinger said the flights were not necessarily carrying detainees, but could have been simply transporting intelligence officials or evidence.

"There have been very few cases of renditions .. the suggestion that there has been a large number of flights is simply an absurd allegation." He claimed the last U.S. rendition flight occurred 'something like three years ago.'

A security official at Abu Dhabi International Airport denied the airport had received CIA rendition flights. He said flights to and from the airport were supervised by international as well as local teams, who prepare reports supported with pictures to show details of the flight including its destination. He added airport authorities did not involve themselves in political affairs. "This is a civilian airport and has nothing to do with politics," he said.

A source at Dubai declined to comment, saying he had 'no information available' on such flights at the airport.

An Interior Ministry official said the UAE's leadership rejected any kind of activity that might 'stain' the country's reputation. "The UAE has repeatedly rejected such operations and our country's position is known to everyone," he noted.


Acute water shortage in 4 areas of Sharjah

SHARJAH — 16 May: Four areas in Sharjah are in the grip of acute water shortage following a major fault at the main water supply plant.

Despite paying high rents, residents of at least five buildings in Rolla, four in Al Mussala and six in Al Butaina areas as well as Abu Shagara are suffering due to the water scarcity for the past 10 days. Officials of Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) have promised to rectify the fault soon and restore normal water supply.

Landlords and real estate agents managing these buildings are not only unable to resolve the water problem, but are also driving away their complaining tenants, instead of helping them in such a crucial period.

Ibrahim, a resident of a building located in Al Mussala Area opposite Rolla park said that he has been suffering without adequate water for over five consecutive days. “The water supply to my home is barely for one hour daily,'' he disclosed complaining that this is insufficient for the family. ''We buy drinking water bottles daily to take bath and for other domestic use. But how long can we go on like this and buy water from outside sources to survive?” he asks.

He along with other tenants of the building have contacted SEWA several times. “But they give us irresponsible answers saying they will soon do some thing about it. The SEWA officials keep assuring us but no practical action has yet been taken by them to restore proper water supply to the residents,'' he added.

Khateem Raeal, a shopkeeper at Rolla Center said that water supply to his shop remains disconnected for more than four days. ''No water is being supplied to us at all, even for less than an hour. All the tenants of Rolla Centre are being forced to buy bottled water from neighbouring grocery and bottled water outlets,'' he said.

“We contacted the municipality who informed us that shortage of water is not their concern. Now we don't know the exact problem and when the water supply will be restored to our buildings,'' he said with anxiety writ large on his face.

Ajay, another resident also pointed out that there erratic supply of water to his building for last four days. We are buying bottled water for all domestic purposes, he said, disclosing, that he has not taken a shower for four days to save water for his children's needs. I have contacted 992, SEWA's Emergency number several times to complain, but the phone keeps  ringing and there is no answer.

Kumar, from Al Butiana area grappling with water shortage for last ten days said that all the tenants of the building  located near Al Ameer bakery are suffering. People are depending on the bottled water which is now out of stock in most groceries in the area. He added that the building landlord has tried her best to get water supply to the tenants , but she failed to solve the problem as the SEWA official failed to cooperate with her.

Amar from another building in Al Butiana also expressed his anger over the lack of water supply in his building and lack of SEWA's efforts to help them to get the water supply restored to their homes. He said that the water comes only for one hour daily which is insufficient for families with children. ''We are contributing Dh 20 each to buy tanker supplied 1000 gallons for temporary relief to our homes, but not all the tenants are willing to pay such amount,'' he said. 

Umm Hassan, a landlord of a 22-apartment building in the area who has been very cooperative with her tenants by buying water from the tankers and trying to solve the problem with Sewa, said, “ I approached the officials at SEWA several times and talked to them about the problem. But, they informed me that they are conducting meetings to find ways of solving the crisis by assigning a contracting company to make new connections to these affected buildings. ”

SEWA officials when contacted by this newspaper refused to comment. But, a source from the water department at SEWA said that the solving the water problem in Al Butiana area buildings will take some time, as these are located on a height which makes it difficult for pumping the water to their tanks. SEWA is making great efforts in addressing the problem within this year. Until then, SEWA will try and provide the tenants of these buildings with free supply of water through water tankers every day, they said. 

In some other areas of Rolla, Mussalla and Abu Shagara, water is not completely disconnected but the supply is maintained for over four hours daily until SEWA is able to rectify the fault at the main water plant, they added.


Doctors call for ban on spitting

UAE - 16 May: Ministry of Health doctors are urging the authorities to slap a Singapore-style ban on spitting on the street, which they say is a public health hazard and can spread deadly diseases such as tuberculosis.

The sight of a man stopping his car at a traffic light, opening the car door, hawking and depositing a mass of phlegm and saliva on the tarmac before speeding away is commonplace in Dubai.

But in the Asian city-state of Singapore it would not be tolerated. Spitting in public is punishable by fines of hundreds of dollars, although residents are free to spit in their own homes.

In the UAE, the habit revolts residents from all backgrounds, and now Ministry of Health doctors say they would consider calling for a ban on health grounds.

Dr Mustafa Al Hashimi, direc tor general of primary healthcare at the ministry, said: “It is a public health problem. It’s not nice – and you can spread disease.

“We should look at the way other countries tackle such issues – Singapore for example. Spitting in public is illegal there.We could follow that route. By spitting you are increasing the risk that you might pass respiratory diseases you are carrying.

“These infections can be passed on by insects that alight upon the spittle and then transfer the germs somewhere else.” Dr Mahboub, an allergy specialist at the ministry, said he is so infuriated at seeing people cough up their phlegm at traffic lights that he often yells at them to stop. He told Emirates Today: “It grosses me out. I stop and yell at them – I can’t stand it.

“If you are carrying respiratory infections such as a cold, pneumonia or tuberculosis you can pass them on this way.” He said that there was a “theo retical risk” of transmitting serious illness such as tuberculosis by spitting in public. “If people spit in an enclosed space then the risk of transmission is higher.” Reena, a resident of Sharjah, said she was worried when she saw people spit. “It’s disgusting and it worries me that when it dries up the wind will sweep off all the germs and blow them into my face.” In Singapore, officials were extra-vigilant during the Sars scare in 2003, when spitting on the street could spread the virus and even cost lives. Residents were fined $300 (Dh1,100).


Expert sounds heart warning

UAE - 16 May:A British expert on heart disease has warned the UAE to tackle quickly the problem or face a medical bill of tens of billions of dirhams.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the UAE, with at least 25 per cent of recorded deaths put down to the condition. Cardiovascular disease is also present in 75 per cent of all diabetes-related deaths – a disturbing fact when paired with the UAE’s diabetes rate, which stands at nearly 40 per cent.

“If the UAE does not tackle [the root of its heart disease problem] in the same way it is fighting Aids, malaria and tuberculosis... the country will have to face huge losses in the shape of morbidity from obesity-related illnesses,” Professor David R Mathews, Chairman of the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism said.

While there has been no official estimate of the possible cost of heart disease in the UAE, medical experts say its severity and prevalence mean that it could be estimated at being in the tens of billions of dirhams.

The UAE’s obesity rate – reported at 35 per cent – is already blamed for its high incidence of related illnesses, particularly diabetes, hypertension and more seriously, heart disease.

Medical sources said among the obesity-related conditions, heart disease was the most expensive to treat, as it often required costly medicines and invasive specialist surgery.

While the UAE is still lagging behind the UK in percentage of deaths caused by heart disease – with the UK recording 40 per cent compared with the UAE’s 25 per cent – experts say it is already high enough to cause concern.



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