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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Hopes fade for 14 Indians aboard sunken boat

DUBAI — Jan. 08: At least 14 Indian nationals aboard the cruise vessel MSV Sri Krishna Sagar which sank in international waters off Iraq on December 27 are feared dead, according to shipping and other sources in Dubai.

However, a Norwegian tanker that was sailing some 50 miles south of the Basra Oil Terminal, the scene of the tragic mishap, managed the next day to rescue two survivors and airlift them to safety in Bahrain.

They were later flown to Mumbai, according to Indian diplomatic sources in the Bahraini capital, Manama.

US Fifth Fleet Naval Command sources in Bahrain told Khaleej Times last night that the USS Howard was also pressed into a major “search and rescue” mission as soon as the alert signals were sounded.

Even as the round-the-clock search and rescue mission continues, sources said that the chances of finding survivors are now beginning to diminish with every passing hour.

The Indian-flagged vessel, it is learnt, belonged to the Tadia family in Mumbai and was on a scheduled sailing in the Gulf waters.

Further details regarding the probable cause of the mishap are still awaited.

Meanwhile, Indian diplomatic sources in Kuwait confirmed that the search and rescue mission is still “going on and those involved in it are searching all along the Gulf coast, bearing in mind the flow pattern of sea currents”.

But details regarding the various crew and passengers on board the ill-fated vessel were not available till late last night. The identity of the Tadia family members is also not fully known as yet, sources added.

Incidentally, this is the third Indian vessel that has sunk in the same vicinity within the past one month. However, crew of the first two vessels that suffered a similar disaster at sea were fortunately rescued.

The Bahrain-based multinational naval Combined Task Force has also joined the continuing rescue mission.

Indian diplomatic mission sources in Dubai said yesterday that they were still not fully aware of details regarding the December 27 tragedy.


Cold spell to hit country today

ABU DHABI — Jan. 08: A spell of cold weather is expected to hit the country today reducing temperature to 8C to 9C at night, according to Ali Abdullah Al Gifri, Acting Director of Meteorology Department, National Authority of Communication.

He asked sea-goers to closely follow up the weather forecast and advised elderly people and children to wear warm clothes during the night.

“Since Friday temperature began to rise by two degree to reach 24C by Saturday during the daytime,” he added.

“The current chilly spell is not the first of its kind and it is related to the winter season. Temperature was 8C during the night in January 2003.

Hussein Rafat, in charge of the climate at the  Meteorology Department, said the current cold wave is one of spells hitting the UAE and Arabian Gulf region and could be accompanied by rains during the winter months from November to March.

He said the Shammal winds cause temperature to dive sometimes to 4C to 5C during the night but average temperature during the daytime ranges between 24C and 18C. The cold wave usually lasts for up to three days.

The current spell, he said, was originated from Siberia where temperature stands at 40C below zero but it jumps to 20C to 15C when it arrives in this region passing through dry lands.

Winds will be 22 knots and relatively active over the sea.


Defensive driving: How skilled are teachers?

DUBAI — Jan. 08: As the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) begins to take control of the entry-level training and testing system for new drivers in an attempt to make Dubai’s roads safer, driving schools may be looking for alternative ways of increasing their revenue.

One area that is not currently regulated in any way is ‘defensive driver training’. This may also be known as ‘corporate driver training’ as it is aimed at companies that have a fleet of vehicles and therefore employ drivers.

Says Adam Kechil, who works with Emirates Driving Institute and Belhasa Driving Centre: “I worked on a project called ‘Advanced.’ It was a research project to ascertain whether post driver training works — training after drivers have passed a basic learner’s test. Most of the research came from credible driver training companies across Europe, who are focused on road safety. In short, the answer is yes, it does work.

“However, companies involved in this area of driver training are not involved in teaching learners, and trainers have superior coaching skills developed through further qualifications.

“The industry is very closely regulated by the government body responsible for the driving tests of the individual country, for example the equivalent here, would be the RTA.’’

“However, the lack of regulations in the UAE in this area makes it virtually open for anyone to offer corporate driver training for a fee, even if they do not know what they are doing or have no interest in road safety,’’ he adds.

“Most driving schools which don’t even have any qualified instructors to teach learners, are attempting to corner the market with a form of training they do not understand.

“Most of what they know has been downloaded off various Internet sites from European companies, or an overview has been given to them by people like me,’’ he says.

“The problem with this course is that having the text or a small amount of information does not mean you become an expert trainer. One of the reasons that companies in Europe that teach learners do not get involved with defensive training is that the two do not mix. They are as different as riding a pedal bicycle and a motorbike in terms of educational content,’’ explains Kechil.

“I have reviewed several defensive courses in Dubai in different driving schools. I think they lack criteria,’’ he says, adding, “Actually, it’s good to see the corporate sector becoming more involved in putting drivers through a course for safety sake, but the professional training they need may not be available here. So, they are paying huge sums of money for a flawed product.’’


Work on 2 flyovers to begin in March

ABU DHABI — Jan 08: The Abu Dhabi Municipality had invited applications from contractors for the construction of two major flyovers in Al Salaam Street, a senior municipal official has said.

Abdullah Salim Al Katheri, Director of Roads at the Roads and Technical Services Section, Abu Dhabi Municipality, said construction work was expected to begin in early March and it would take 30 months to complete the project.

“Around 160,000 vehicles ply the street and the traffic demand is expected to increase due to the new developments on adjacent islands,” he added.

According to Al Katheri, the new interchange at the intersection of Al Salam Street and Hazaa bin Zayed Street will be a four-level one, which will be the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi.

Al Salam Street traffic will pass through a tunnel, approximately 700 metres long.

“Above the surface intersection, a 180-metre-long bridge will carry Haza bin Zayed Street traffic travelling between Abu Dhabi Island and Al Reem Island. A second bridge, above Haza bin Zayed Street Bridge will carry traffic from Al Reem Island towards Al Salam Street,” the official explained.

This is part of the plans to convert Al Salam Street into a high-speed freeway.

“At the Sea Palace interchange, Al Salam Street traffic will pass through a second tunnel, approximately 630 metres long,” said Al Katheri.

New bridges and roads from Al Reem Island, being developed into an integrated city, will connect directly to Al Salam Street. Developments on Saadiyat Island will also be indirectly connected to Al Salam Street. Other development projects on the eastern side of Abu Dhabi Island will also depend on Al Salam Street as a traffic artery.

Al Katheri said plans were afoot to ensure minimum disruption during the construction of the flyovers.


Dubai - Smart sign advice

Dubai - Jan 08: Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) has told motorists to adhere to legal speed limits after several drivers complained that the newly installed ‘Smart’ road signs were misleading.  Motorists complained that different speed limits were shown on the new digital signs to those displayed permanently on the road, but Salah Al Marzouqi, manager of Smart Traffic Systems, said that the speed shown on the digital board is only an ‘advisory limit’ that varies depending on traffic flow.

Motorists on Ittihad Road said yesterday that while the speed limit for the road is 100km/hr, the digital sign showed a speed of 80km/hr all morning. “We did not know which sign to follow. We feared that if we exceeded 80km, we would be fined,”’ said one motorist.

The RTA clarified that motorists would not be fined for exceeding the speed limits on the digital signs - but they were the advised speed limits.



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