NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Rain throws traffic out of gear in Dubai and Sharjah
DUBAI/SHARJAH/AL AIN/ABU DHABI — April 03: Heavy rains accompanied by thunderstorm and lightning disrupted life in parts of Dubai and Sharjah yesterday.
Poor visibility and waterlogging on roads caused several accidents with Dubai alone reporting 30 minor accidents. In Sharjah, four minor accidents were reported.
Residents reported uprooting of a number of trees along the Dubai beach due to the strong winds in the afternoon.
Signboards at construction sites in some parts of Sharjah were damaged due to strong winds.
Al Ain city and nearby areas also experienced a sandstorm with residents staying indoors.
The strong winds and heavy clouds moved into the country, causing 0.8 millimetres of rainfall, said Meteorological Office at the Dubai International Airport.
A forecaster at the office said weather would improve in the coming days.
“We probably will not be seeing the same conditions today, we expect some isolated light showers,” explained Chris Worger, forecaster in the Dubai Met office. The weather is expected to be fine by Friday, the official added.
The Meteorological Office also received reports of hail falling just north of Jebel Ali.
Residents were also warned against venturing out without precautions during dust storms, which can worsen asthma, eye infections and sinusitis.
The National Meteorological Authority official in Abu Dhabi said the change in weather was due to an atmospheric depression.
The official predicted a light to moderate showers with temperature reaching 35ºC during day time and 22ºC at night.
The sea will be rough with waves reaching up to 16 feet high, the official said warning fishermen and public against venturing into the sea.
Permit refused for girls to work in remote areas
ABU DHABI – April 03: The Minister of Labour, Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al kaabi, has refused to issue work permits for girls to a café in a remote area.
The minister, who met yesterday PROs, workers and owners of compnaies to find solutions for their problems during the weekly open day, said, “It is not allowed to recruit girls in the remote areas such as Bani Yas or Mussafah.”
The open day meeting was attended by directors of the departments of disputes and work permits in addition to Obaid Rashid Al Zahmi, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour (MoL).
The minister’s decision came after an owner of a café in Bani Yas submitted an application for a work permit for a girl. Dr Al Kaabi turned down his application saying that the work environment in the remote areas was not suitable for women.
The minister also refused to approve the age of a Pakistani worker who had got his age amended in his passport.
“The workers have to abide by the maximum age limit that would not be more than 60 years for regular labourers,” he said. He warned the workers who try to fake their ages to stay in the country.
In the line with the new strategy of the MoL, the minister agreed to cancel an expired work permit for a worker and to issue a new one for another labourer in case the company pays the required fees according to the labour law.
“The ministry seeks to provide the firms its requirements of workers. Refusal of the applications to bring in workers would be for reasons such as the unsuitable accommodation and the delayed wages,” the Minister added.
Man locks daughters in his car for 3 hours
AL AIN — April 03: A man left his two small children locked in his car for three hours in downtown Al Ain yesterday while he went to buy a cellphone.
While the father was searching for the cellphone, the girls — aged 2 and 3 — cried helplessly thereby drawing the attention of people in the neighbourhood.
A frantic search for the father, a Pakistani, followed. People tried to check all the shops in the area. Witnesses said Major Hareb Khamis Al Khaily, Director of the Licence Section at the Al Ain Police’s Traffic Department, was contacted by one of them. A police team was immediately sent.
The policemen, who brought food and juice for the baby girls, forwarded the car’s number to the Operation Department of the Al Ain Police which soon traced the vehicle’s owner who happened to be the girls’ grandfather. The latter told the police that his son had gone to the Al Ain market with his friend to buy a mobile phone.
He called his son and asked him to run to the car. When the father arrived in the area where his car was parked, he faced an angry crowd demanding an explanation for his irresponsible behaviour. “The two babies were in danger. Thank God, they were not kidnapped or hit by a speeding car,” said a witness. Major Al Khaily directed the police team to take the children to the Societal Police Section of the Al Madina Police Station.
Live poultry shops closed in UAE
DUBAI/ABU DHABI — April 03: The Minister of Environment and Water, Dr Mohammed Saeed Al Kindi, has ordered the closure of all live poultry shops in the UAE as a precautionary measure, following reports of an outbreak of bird flu in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, recently.
A circular to this effect has been issued to all UAE Municipalities. And veterinary doctors and inspectors have been ordered to beef up their role to ensure no wild birds or poultry were brought in through any of the border check points.
At a meeting held by the Secretariat of the National Committee for Emergency Response (NCER) to Avian Flu yesterday, Al Kindi said, “The meeting focused on following up the directive issued by Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy chairman of the Committee on forming a permanent emergency action team to combat bird flu.”
Dr Al Kindi commended the cooperation between the Ministry and the Customs Departments to ensure that this directive was being followed.
The decree issued last Thursday, enforcing a temporary ban on import of live birds and poultry from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, is designed to protect the safety of poultry products in the UAE.
The assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Water said veterinary doctors are also working with customs personnel at airports, where all incoming birds, poultry and poultry products are being held back for detailed inspections.
The NCER now plans to conduct mock drills in all emirates to test the reactions and alertness levels of emergency response teams. Representative of the armed forces have also confirmed the preparedness of their teams — which are already on full alert in this connection
The meeting also discussed the viability of issuing directives regarding various protection and control measures and initiatives to contact international and local authorities to ensure better coordination.
Measures regarding the quarantine of falcons, conducting lab tests to detect the virus, and implementing a ban on the smuggling of all kind of birds through the border check points, were also discussed at the NCER meeting.
Commenting Al Kindi’s decision, Dr Hussein Hassanen, Technical Secretary of Poultry Producers Association said the UAE was safe but all these precautionary measures were being taken to avoid bird flu in the Emirates.
While poultry shops have been ordered to close down, poultry farms continue to operate normally. These poultry farms are complying with both international and local safety and health standards, he added.
Meanwhile, officials of the Public Health Department at Dubai Municipality (DM) said, “Live poultry shops were banned in the emirate about eight months ago. Moreover, our inspectors are keeping a tight check on the markets and various bird shops.”
Hisham Fahmi, Head of DM’s Veterinary Section, has urged all those having pet birds to visit their clinic at Mushref for a regular, precautionary, check ups. “We have also requested people not to buy any new birds or unknown birds. If they already have pet birds, they should be kept locked in proper cages, and any wild birds should not be allowed near them.”
Fahmi added, “Bird food should not be placed in the open and pet owners should wear gloves and masks while feeding the birds.”
No U-turn on tests: RTA
DUBAI — April 03: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) officials have denied that the authority would revert to the earlier testing methods for obtaining a driving licence that allowed driving students to retake a test on any following available date.
A spokesperson for the RTA said that comments issued in this regard had been twisted by a section of the Press.
“The rules have not been changed and all students will have to appear for the testing methods made compulsory for them in January of this year,” said the spokesperson.
The RTA made it mandatory in January 2007 for all students to complete 40 driving classes before qualifying for a test. As per the new rule, if a student fails a test, he can reappear after a period of one month and only after completing an additional seven classes.
335 lawbreakers held, counterfeit goods seized in municipality drive
DUBAI — April 03: A total 335 lawbreakers including street vendors, beggars and illegal car washers were arrested by the inspectors of the Dubai Municipality last month.
According to Obeid Salem Al Shamsi, Assistant Director-General for Administrative and General Services Affairs in the municipality, the drive against the lawbreakers had also resulted in the seizure of several low-quality goods and pirated CDs.
Civic inspectors conduct daily checks in streets and public places to prevent street vending, begging and car washing in public places.
“The nine inspectors at the Security and Control Unit of the Administrative Affairs Department carry out regular checks. In March, they caught a total of 335 people including 236 street vendors, 58 beggars, 28 car washers and 13 illegal butchers and fish cleaners,” he said.
He added that a total of 3,726 counterfeit products including ready-made garments, perfumes, cameras, and watches were confiscated.
In addition to this, 2,871 pirated and pornographic DVDs, 46 alcoholic drinks including 42 bottles of whisky and four cartons of beer were also seized last month.
Al Shamsi explained that the law-breakers, who belong to various nationalities, would be handed over to the Dubai Naturalization and Residency Department for deportation in coordination with Dubai Police.
He said the seized goods would be destroyed after legal action was taken against the violators.
Al Shamsi urged the public to call the Municipality Emergency office on No. 04-2232323 to report on illegal activities.
PSYCHOS IN THE SKIES
UAE - April 03: Those in the UAE intent on mixing with the glamorous and exciting lifestyles of the thousands of airline cabin crew based in the country - be warned - they’re prone to brief episodes of psychosis and mental health problems, according to a new report. New research claims frequent air travellers, such as cabin crew, who repeatedly take long-haul flights risk ill health and bouts of mental health issues.
“As well as the obvious jet lag encountered with crossing multiple time zones, an out-of-kilter body clock can trigger psychotic and mood disorders,” the study in the Lancet medical journal revealed. Scientists found reports of cabin crew experiencing decreased cognitive performance and mental health problems, including brief episodes of psychosis - loss of contact with reality - after reviewing 500 published articles on aviation and health. One Australian air hostess told 7DAYS the research didn’t surprise her: “The lack of sleep and the long hours over several time zones can lead to all sorts of problems. How some of my former colleagues slipped through the net I’ll never know. What problems and issues they have are all magnified by jetlag.”
Another member of an airline’s cabin crew, based in Dubai, told how last week she witnessed two members of staff fighting in the back of a plane on a flight from Bahrain to Dubai, hitting each other over the head with the metal serving trays. “That to me is clear psychotic behaviour,” she said. Another flight attendant added: “There are certainly a fair few members of staff who suffer from depression and I’m certainly moodier since taking up the job eight years ago. But when you get up at 3am one day to work followed by 6pm the next day and so on, it’s really not too surprising people suffer from time to time.”
Scientists said in their report that it was wrong to assume that long-haul aircrew become immune to jet lag. Etihad, the national airline of the UAE, told 7DAYS it would look into the research. “The health and safety of cabin crew and flight deck team is of paramount importance to Etihad Airways. Cabin crew members are given extensive training to prepare for the role, and during each flight are given frequent rest breaks. Etihad constantly monitors new research that is produced into the affects of short and long haul flights and, when appropriate, will incorporate it into staff policy,” Etihad’s statement said.
BA said it “was unaware of any widespread disorders among crew” and Emirates said it was not aware of its crew having “higher incidences of psychological disorders than the general population” and like all airlines adheres to international health and safety regulations for its staff.
Mugger throws chilli powder at woman’s face
Runs away with cash and passports of the victims’ family
DUBAI - April 03: A woman was stunned, blinded, and robbed by an unknown assailant who threw red chilli powder at her face, causing her eyes to sear in pain. She has come forward to warn Dubai residents especially women drivers.
Winnie Garcia, who is still recovering from the burning sensation in her eyes, was assaulted in a dim parking lot behind the Spinney’s near Ramada Hotel in Bur Dubai last week. Her purse was taken by a man, which contained some cash, bank and credit cards, a mobile phone, an important document, her original passport along with the passports of her whole family.
Recounting the incident, Garcia said, “The place had no lamp post but I noticed a man standing not far from my car. I didn’t suspect anything bad would happen as I’ve been living in Dubai for 17 years in peace.”
Garcia had just sat on the driver’s seat when a man opened the passenger’s door and said “madame” to grab her attention and quickly tossed a bagful of chili powder in her eyes. “The incident happened so fast,” she said. “I was crying in pain as my eyes were literally burning.” She said she was left stunned when the man grabbed her purse and ran away. The victim, who works as a personal assistant in an international company in Bur Dubai, cried for help and called the police.
She reported the incident to the Al Rafa Police Station. According to a police source, it was the first case where chilli powder was used to divert victim’s attention in robbery attempt. Garcia, who hails from Philippines, told Evening Post that her vision was greatly impaired by the powdered substance. After the incident, her eyes swelled to such an extent that she could not see clearly. Her doctor declined to comment but Garcia said the medical results are on the way for further treatment.
“I had just come back from the embassy that day to process my passport as well as of my husband and two sons. Please help return them to me,” pleaded Garcia, who was still recovering from the incident.
Kish travellers recount horror in air
Plane develops technical snag, makes emergency landing
DUBAI - April 03: A Kish Air flight that made an emergency landing on the Kish island on March 17 early morning might go on records as a minor emergency landing for the airline officials, but for those who endured the experience it is something they would remember all their lives. Kish Air flight number Y97139 took off from Dubai airport at 10 p.m. on March 16, but landed in Kish sometime after midnight, said passengers, many of whom have only recently returned to Dubai after completing their visa changing formalities. “Everything seemed normal till we reached Kish,” said Anoop, who was on his third visit to Kish for visa change. He landed in Dubai about a year back to be with his wife who is employed here.
“After we reached Kish, the plane kept flying in circles for about 45 minutes. Initially, we thought they had not got the signal to land. But then, there was this announcement saying we had to make an emergency landing. We were asked to fold our hands behind our heads and bend forward and be prepared for the emergency landing,” recounted Anoop
“I remembered my family, my wife and kids and thought it was the end. It was then that someone said the plane was flying in the sky all the while to burn off the excess fuel so that there would not be a fire when it crash-landed. However, luckily, the plane landed without much problem. There were applause of relief from passengers and crew members and the atmosphere was one of celebration. It was then that we noticed smoke coming from the cockpit area. There was a commotion and the crew members were literally pushing passengers into the escape chute, resulting in some passengers falling down and some suffered broken limbs,” he said.
David, another passenger who also travelled by the same flight said, “I am still keeping the ticket of that flight and shall keep it with me all my life. During that scary hour, I realised how unpredictable life is. Flying to Kish has always been a horrifying experience. But when the announcement said we should all pray for a safe landing, I thought it was all over. Many passengers, mostly women started crying out of fear.” David said his friends in Dubai told him on his return a week later that the incident was initially posted on the net, but later disappeared. According to the passengers, on landing some of them had clicked pictures using their mobile phone cameras, which were confiscated and erased by authorities at the airport.
“The next day, an official from the Kish Air came and met us. He said it was a technical problem, where the nose wheel got stuck. He said we were indeed lucky to have survived such a near-major mishap. We all were given three days free stay and food at a hotel by the airline for having had to go through hell,” said Anoop.
When contacted, an official from the Kish Air said the incident in question was a minor landing trouble which lasted only for 10 to 15 minutes. “The aircraft is a comparatively new one, just 10 years of flying. Minor incidents keep happening with all airlines. Had it been a major incident, the incident would have been flashed by the media,” said the official, who refused to be named.
(Names of the passengers have been changed to protect identity.)