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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

FROM THE DEEP - Bathers report agonising attacks by Mystery creature

Dubai - Nov.03:Bathers off Jebel Ali have reported a series of agonising attacks that have left marine experts scratching their heads. So far, four 7DAYS readers have reported attacks by the mystery creature, leaving two or three puncture wounds.

All victims suffered profuse bleeding and severe pain lasting up to eight hours. The bathers speculated it might have been a stingray, but marine experts say that’s probably a red herring. In fact, experts say, the attacks show none of the trademarks of local species, and they believe that offshore developments may have brought unfamiliar creatures into our waters.

If you go down to the beach today, you could be in for a big surprise – a mysterious aquatic pest with a terrible way of defending itself. On Monday, the 7DAYS letters page reported the first attack by a beast that leaves its agonised victims gushing blood from multiple wounds. Ute dipped a foot into 60cm of water on the beach on the first day of Eid and was left in agony for eight hours.

“My foot was bleeding like hell and the pain was terrible,” Ute wrote. Then, in Wednesday’s paper, D S reported an identical attack at Jebel Ali on October 26. “The pain was excruciating for exactly eight hours after, even after taking 2 x 400mg pain killers,” D S wrote. “I’m 37 and I’ve never had anything quite as painful.” But what is this mysterious offshore assailant? Experts in local marine life put a number of creatures in the frame. However, the victims’ accounts present some puzzling elements.

Both accounts mention multiple cuts. D S mentions that her assailant “felt like a large crab or lobster pincers” – “what I felt was something grabbing or biting me”. Both victims describe profuse bleeding and terrible pain. Alan Dickson, a pest expert with an interest in local wildlife, suspects that Ute and D S were stung by stingrays. “There are young baby stingrays really, really close in shore,” he says. “When the barbs stick in, it’s going to feel like a tugging sensation as the fish tries to swim away.”

For him, the attacker’s identifying characteristic is the combo of bleeding and extreme pain. “I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve been stung by stingrays. It is excruciating and the barbs contain anticoagulant,” he says. However, other experts feel the stingray could be getting a bum rap - a victim of bad publicity after one fatally stabbed Aussie naturalist Steve Irwin. “There are potentially harmful things in these waters like a Lionfish or a Cone Shell, but I don’t think it’s any of them. A stingray has only one barb so it would not leave two or three wounds,” says marine biologist Laura Bates.

Jonathan Ali Khan of Ocean World Productions, currently filming the second series of ‘Cycle of Life’ for regional television, says any number of fishes could be the culprit. “Everyone is going to think it’s a stingray because of Steve Irwin but I wouldn’t think it would be one if there are two or three wounds,” he says. “A sea-snake bite would be far worse and their mouths are too small to bite an ankle.” He suggests a flounder or Moses sole could be the villain - both of which are likely to lurk under the sand off  Jebel Ali. However, he feels the most likely culprit could be a reef fish.

“The only thing that could really do this is a fish with spines and a venom gland,” he says. “I would suggest something from the Stonefish or Scorpionfish families, probably a juvenile because an adult’s sting would be worse.” Neither fish would normally be on a sandy seabed near the beach but Ali Khan says offshore development could be bringing reef fish closer in. “The waters off the coast are going through troubled times,” he says. “There are species that are coming into the area which have not been seen here often before.”

Anyway, on one thing the experts agree. Swimmers should avoid walking on the sand underwater. If you get stung, stick your foot in the hottest water you can bear.


What is the Jebel Ali Ankle Nipper?

The nipper causes agonising pain that lasts for eight hours.

The nipper causes profuse bleeding.

Multiple puncture wounds
Victims report two or three cuts in their ankles.

Victims say the nipper reacts aggressively and tugs at their feet.

Prime Suspects

The defence
A typical stingrays only has one spine.
The prosecution
They could strike twice or it could be a species with two barbs.

The defence
Too venomous and mouths too small.
The prosecution
Very common to the area.

Moses Sole or another flatfish
The defence
Not venomous.
The prosecution
They have two long spines and mucus that could cause pain.

A Stonefish, Scorpionfish or Lionfish
The defence
Not normally near the beach.
The prosecution
Venomous with painful reactions.


Bachelors’ housing problem to be tackled in two phases

ABU DHABI — Nov.02:The housing problem of bachelors in Abu Dhabi will be tackled under two short- and medium-term plans, an Abu Dhabi Municipality official has said.

“Contacts are being made with other authorities concerned, including the civil defence, to regulate this matter as we have discovered that some buildings house around 6,000 tenants,” Omar Mohammed Al Hashemi, City Image Division Manager, Abu Dhabi Municipality, told Khaleej Times.

He added that his division has set certain conditions to regulate housing of bachelors. “The number of bachelors in one room should not exceed three and that no partition should be made to increase the number of dwellers inside the apartment. Dining rooms, halls or kitchens should not be used for housing,” he stressed.

One of the ensuing repercussions of the problem, he explained, is the living of men and women in one apartment, a phenomenon the division will do its best to put an end to. He said that the law prohibits bachelors to live in villas.

“We plan to increase the number of inspectors to tighten the control on residential units. Booklets on rules and conditions of bachelors’ housing are being distributed in Arabic, English and Urdu languages,” he said.

Real estate offices and landlords are directly contacted to ensure their compliance with regulations.

A landlord, he emphasied, will be served with first warning if he didn’t make maintenance of his building and keep it clean, or refused to remove partitions.

He should process the tenancy contracts by himself and stop sub-letting.

A second warning will be served and a week-long grace period will be granted to the landlord to remove all irregularities.

If he didn’t respond, he will be served with a final warning to be followed by disconnection of power supply to the violating apartments.

He unveiled plans to shift bachelors to new localities in Mussafah and Bani Yas. “These plans are being studied now and will be offered to investors according to requirements set out by the municipality. Tenants will be required to pay the same or more value of rent,” he added.


Scores dealing in illegal firecracker trade detained

Ras Al Khaimah - Nov 02: Police have seized huge quantities of firecrackers, and detained scores of suspects involved in the illegal business.

Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Munakhas, who heads the Investigation Unit at the CID, said undercover agents guided police to five houses in different areas.

Lt Col Munakhas told a press conference the municipality had searched groceries and shops for firecrackers, but found nothing. Police, however, continued to receive complaints from the public that firecrackers were still available in plenty.

He said under the directives of Brigadier General Shaikh Talib Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chief of RAK Police, a team of investigators started identifying traders who supply the emirate with firecrackers. Investigators formed a team of undercover agents and then set a trap.

Police raided the houses, seized the firecrackers and detained a number of UAE national and Asian suspects.

The suspects told investigators that they brought the firecrackers from another emirate. He said a team of investigators will continue to monitor the problem to curb the menace.

Traders have been making a huge profit out of their illegal business providing customers with extremely dangerous firecrackers. One firecracker can cost as much as Dh70.

Lt Col Munakhas said the problem had started spreading and it was a cause for worry. He said municipal inspectors cannot enter homes of people, but they have the authority to search the shops. He said the CID, on the other hand, can raid homes to seize firecrackers.

He said in the past, firecrackers were small and posed no threat to public safety. But today the firecrackers that are being sold illegally are extremely dangerous and can cause death.


Mystery illness 'could be Herpes Encephalitis'

Dubai - Nov. 02: Health authorities are investigating the death of a two-year-old boy who died two days after he was admitted for high fever, unconsciousness and bleeding from the nose.

The toddler died on Tuesday after he was admitted to Al Qasimi Hospital on Sunday, according to his distressed father, who was later admitted to hospital along with his 8-year old daughter, for similar symptoms.

Dr. Ali Shakar, undersecretary at the Health Ministry, told Gulf News that the father and sister were recovering from their illness.

"The father and [sister] are stable and their fever has reduced. We are going to discharge them soon after 48 hours of observation," he said, adding that the hospital was taking appropriate precautions to prevent transmission.

He also said that ministry officials suspected that the boy died of Herpes Encephalitis, a viral infection characterised by high fever, seizures and depressed level of consciousness.

He added that the ministry could not confirm the diagnosis until they received received the results of blood tests sent to laboratories in Germany and the UK, expected today.

He said the infectious disease specialists on the case have so far ruled out mosquito-borne illnesses.

"I can 100 per cent say that it is not haemorrhagic fever, dengue or Japanese encephalitis," he said, explaining that mosquitoes that carried these diseases were not found in the UAE.

He said health officials did not know how the family was infected as they had not travelled or had any contact with animals recently. They also reportedly did not have any food poisoning history.

He also said that there were no reports of similar cases at other hospitals.

The boy's father told Gulf News from hospital that the family had gone to their hometown of Homs, Syria during the summer, returning two months ago.

Herpes type 1 can affect any age group

Herpes Encephalitis is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1. It can affect any age group, but is most common in people under the age of 20 and above the age of 40.

The mode of transmission is usually through exposure to infected saliva or respiratory secretions, which travels along the nose into the limbic lobe.

Symptoms include fever and headache for several days, followed by behavioural changes, seizures, partial paralysis and unconsciousness. Not all cases exhibit these symptoms.


Motorcycles to tow away vehicles

Dubai - Nov. 02: Retriever motorcycles will be used to tow cars that break down on congested roads.

"The main aim in introducing Retriever motorcycles is to speed up the process of removing vehicles that break down to minimise traffic disturbance and congestion," said Maitha Obaid Bin Udai, Chief Executive Officer of the Traffic and Roads Agency at the Dubai Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

This service will be the first of its kind in the Middle East and will be in operation early next year.

Initially four Retriever motorcycles will be stationed between 6am and 9pm at major spots such as Shaikh Zayed Road, Al Garhoud Bridge, Al Maktoum Bridge, Emirates Road and the Shindagha Tunnel to ensure smooth traffic flow by immediately removing cars which have broken down.

"This service has shown remarkable success, especially when used in congested areas and during rush hours in other countries such as Canada, Sweden and China," she said.

She described the service as one in a series of innovative and advanced services provided by the RTA to ease congestion. The motorbikes will be electronically linked to the traffic systems centre at the RTA and will reach the accident sites within minutes.

She added that the advantage of using the Retriever bike was that it could move smoothly between vehicles in the crowded streets. Its width is about 95cm only.

RTA studies have shown that the sudden breakdown of a vehicle or a minor traffic accident that actually should take only five minutes to clear the vehicle from the spot currently needs at least 40 minutes to resume normal traffic movement.

The new service will start with four retriever bikes as a first stage and will be expanded when proven feasible and desired objectives are achieved.

Bike has powerful six-cylinder engine

A Retriever motorcycle is used to tow vehicles and it is useful on roads with heavy traffic because it can reach the spot easily.

A towing device is attached to it and can be unfolded effortlessly by one person. The towing device is not unfolded until it reaches the disabled vehicle. This design allows the Retriever to reach cars swiftly and tow them safely.

The weight of the car is carried by the lifting system and its wheels. The powerful six-cylinder engine creates plenty of torque and easily gets a car going.


Suspects investigated over forged currency 

Ras Al Khaimah/Dubai - Nov. 02: The Public Prosecution has started investigating suspects arrested for counterfeiting banknotes.

Officials at the Public Prosecution said the six Arab and Asian suspects had been circulating counterfeit currency. Officials stressed that initial investigations suggested that the gang members could be connected to other gangs in other emirates.

The officials said a money exchange agency lodged a complaint with police against a number of people who had approached the agency to transfer huge amounts of money to their friends in another emirate.

They gave the money exchange agency counterfeit banknotes, which officials of the agency discovered and reported the matter to police.

Meanwhile the Public Prosecution has started questioning four suspects who were reportedly involved in laundering roughly Dh5 million.

Sources close to the investigation told Gulf News on Wednesday that the four suspects an Indian, a UAE national, a Pakistani and a Briton "have not yet been charged."


Emirates Road is deadliest

Dubai - Nov.02:Emirates Road has overtaken Sheikh Zayed Road as Dubai’s deadliest, according to police figures. In the first six months of the year 19 people were killed and 11 seriously injured on Emirates Road, police said.

Sheikh Zayed Road is second-worst, with 16 dead and eight seriously injured. In the same period last year Sheikh Zayed road was the deadliest, with 16 killed and three seriously injured. Emirates Road was second with seven dead and three hurt. This year’s third-deadliest is the Dubai-Al Ain road, which saw six fatalities, while Al Ittihad saw five and Sheikh Rashid Road four.


RTA to conduct final driving test for licence

DUBAI - Nov. 01: A committee from the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will now conduct the final driving test of a person applying for a licence while certified training centres will only be responsible for qualifying the applicant.

In a quick response to the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of RTA issued the order to this effect yesterday.

He said a plan would soon be worked out to improve the quality and standard of training drivers so as to highlight the importance of safe driving skills and force them to abide by the road regulations.

The RTA has selected international companies specialised in licensing drivers in order to participate in the tender of a project which aims at developing the licensing department and establishing the standards associated with it. The project will be completed within six months from the date of it being awarded, he added.

Al Tayer also emphasised on increasing the number of training programmes for drivers of taxis, public buses and those of franchising companies to enhance their driving skills. The number of supervisors would  be increased over the RTA drivers to check their commitment to traffic rules and regulations and to reconsider a system of penalising the taxi drivers in cases of violations and increasing fines as a warning, he added.

Al Tayer stressed the need to intensify awareness campaigns and focus on the most susceptible groups including youth and truck drivers because as per reports, 80 per cent of deaths caused by road accidents are due to over speeding.

He said  a comprehensive plan had been prepared to raise traffic awareness including the launch of campaigns and training workshops. The campaigns include emphasis on wearing seatbelts as studies prove that wearing seatbelts reduces the risk of deaths in crashes up to 60 per cent.

Other campaigns include reduction in traffic congestions with slogans like, 'Hand in Hand to reduce traffic Congestion' which aim at finding alternatives, limiting reckless driving, improving behaviour, reducing negative emotions and anger while driving, reducing environmental damage due to traffic congestion and directing drivers to use alternative routes.

Another awareness campaign for "truck drivers" aims at stressing the importance of adhering to the laws of traffic. He added that another RTA campaign is for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire engines and highlighting their role.

A model plan of a traffic city will be displayed in Global Village during the Dubai Shopping Festival including participation in the radio traffic programme.

The second International Traffic Safety conference under the slogan "Traffic Safety without borders 2006" will be  attended by experts and specialists representing 20 local and international organisations specialised in road safety and traffic.


1,200 new cameras on Dubai roads

Dubai - Nov. 02: Around 1,200 new cameras will be installed at traffic signals to nab motorists who jump signals.

"The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has recommended in a meeting with Dubai Police yesterday that 1,200 new cameras should be installed to deter red-signal violators," said Maitha Obaid Bin Udai, Chief Executive Officer of the Traffic and Roads Agency at the RTA.

She said the RTA has identified black spots and dangerous roads where around 200 fixed radars and some 70 mobile radar cameras would be installed.

Brigadier Dr Jamal Mohammad Al Merri, Acting Chief of Dubai Police, ordered the increase of traffic patrols. "The instructions of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, spares no one because the law is above all."

Brigadier Dr Al Merri urged the heads of traffic control teams to focus on issuing spot fines and avoid fining motorists in absentia, unless it was difficult to stop the offending motorist.

He said issuing spot fines deters other motorists from committing similar offences.



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