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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Great escape for stranded employees

SHARJAH - AUG 19: A group of employees last night dramatically escaped by boat from a massive fire that wrecked Sharjah’s Port Khalid.  They managed to flee unhurt as the blaze closed in on them – only to be stranded at sea without documents.

The six men are employed by Lamprell, a British com pany that operates at the docks. They were working on a barge called Hamriya Pride when flames from the blazing Emirates Lube Oil Company depot began to move closer.

The only available means of escape was a tugboat anchored nearby – so they jumped aboard.

“They got on the boat thinking it was being moved to another berth due to the fire,” said Suresh Kumar of Lamprell. “In fact the tug was going out to sea and the presence of six of our employees without seamen’s licences or permits meant it could not continue on its journey after leaving the port.” The vessel was last night anchored offshore. One of the stranded six, welder Sago George, 41, from Kerala, India, told Emirates Today that he and his workmates felt lucky to be alive.

But he said: “We did not get anything to eat until morning and we don’t know when we can go back to the shore. We are in touch with friends and relatives but the mobile phone will stop working soon as the battery is running down.

“We hope the company will send us the documents so we can go back to port.” The tug cannot return because it has completed embarkation procedures and the captain wants Lamprell to send another vessel out to pick up the six men.

An official at the company’s office in Jebel Ali, Dubai, said: “We hope they will be back soon. No one else from our company is missing, everybody is safe. Our company office at Port Khalid is closed until further notice.” Lamprell employs 1,000 at the Sharjah site but most were not working on Friday when the blaze started.

Mohammed Azad of food processing company Tiffany said: “Our factory at the port was working but nobody was injured or hurt in the fire. Thank God nothing happened to our business.” And a spokesman for Maritime Industrial Services, which has an engineering and fabrication workshop near the scene of the blaze, said staff were unable to report for work because the port was closed.

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SHARJAH - AUG 19: Investigators were last night trying to discover the cause of the vast blaze that engulfed an oil depot in Sharjah’s Port Khalid, sending flames 200 metres high.  Twisted, blackened metal was all that remained of 28 storage tanks, each containing up to 800 metric tonnes, at the Emirates Lube Oil Company base.

The fire caused millions of dirhams of damage and forced the closure of Port Khalid, the emirate’s main cargo facility.

But the cause of the inferno, which started at 11.20pm on Friday and was still raging yesterday afternoon, remained a mystery. The blaze was later brought under control, though last night firefighters were still tackling some remnants.

“The reason for the fire is still unknown but the damaged area is very big,” said Sharjah Police spokesman Major Jumaa Al Leem. But, despite the scale of the destruction, miraculously the only reported casualties were three firefighters, who suffered slight injuries.

And civil defence teams prevented the flames spreading and causing a major disaster. Sharjah Power Station – where a huge stock of liquefied gas is stored for power generation – is just half a kilometre from the scene of the fire.

Firefighters used shovels to throw sand on to burn ing barrels. Naval units and tugboats were called in to douse the blaze from the sea, as a giant tanker loaded with oil was towed away to safety. Other oil ships and a tanker loaded with liquefied gas were also moved.

The port was evacuated and the nearby Zulal water plant was closed temporarily to prevent contamination.

Lubricant oils, grease, additives and other highly inflammable products were stored at the depot.

An oil company official said: “The fire spread very fast due to strong winds and burned 28 storage tanks.

“It was the main storage facility for lubricants distribution in the GCC. Every day more than 30 ships from around the world call at the company’s berth to load and unload lubricant oil for the automobiles, aviation and marine sectors.” The official said the depot was the main distribution hub for Caltex, National, Crown and Enoc engine oils.

The fire spread to an adja cent yard where 5,000 barrels of additives were kept.

A tanker lorry and four cars parked at the depot were burnt, and the Sharjah Duty Free shop in the port, the Lamprell workshop, a canteen, a fabrication centre and other buildings were damaged. A barge caught fire and diesel from its tank spilled on to the water and erupted in flames.


RTA plans 12 more pedestrian crossings

DUBAI — AUG 19: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) would be constructing 12 pedestrian crossings at various locations in Dubai at a cost of Dh58 million. The project is expected to be completed in less than two years.

“These crossings will be constructed at a number of locations, which witness intensive pedestrian movement, as well as spots recording a high percentage of run-over accidents,” said Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA.

These crossings will be constructed at Al Mankhool Road opposite Al Ain Center, Khalid bin Al Waleed Road between Saqr and Al Saeediya intersection, Salahudeen Al Ayoobi Road between Fish Roundabout and Al Muraqqabat intersection, Baniyas Road between ships wharfage and Sheraton intersection, Damascus Road between Al Nahda and Baghdad Road, Damascus Road between Aleppo and Baghdad Roads, Abu Bakr Al Siddiqq Road near Hamarain Center, Al Rasheed Road near Hamriya Souq, Zabeel Road near Central Post Office, Al Hadeeqa Road near Safa Park and Al Rebat Road behind Al Rashidiya area. He stressed that construction of these crossings comes as part of the efforts made by the RTA to provide safe means of mobility to pedestrians.

The designs of these crossings have been oriented to serve all categories of the community, particularly people with special needs. The air-conditioned crossings would be fitted with escalators and elevators.


Indian expats prefer international schools

DUBAI — AUG 19: The academic year will see many Indian expats turning to international schools for their children.

Several have already sought admission to these institutions to move their children from Indian curriculum schools.

While parents reason that the Indian system provides internationally-relevant education, they believe opting for an international school helps in the holistic development of their kids.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) board are high on parents’ preference list because, according to them, it helps prepare for higher classes and in some cases, for higher education overseas.

For instance, Sanjai Rao shifted her son to an international school saying it is more suitable for her son’s way of learning.

“I shifted my son from Delhi Private School to Dubai International Academy this year because he likes to research topics, experiment and rely on application-based learning. The Indian system as such allows little freedom to do that because of the enormity of the syllabus. The international system, we feel, helps in preparation for higher classes,” she says.

Jaya Bhatnagar’s son also moved to an international school this year after his first term at Dubai Modern High School. “We felt that IB teaching is more practical oriented and thorough. Besides, they also equip the child with learning mechanisms. Now for the past two years, both IB and IGCSE curricula are being accepted in Delhi and Mumbai universities, thus opening the ‘going home’ avenue to kids,” Bhatnagar reasons. She adds that one of the primary factors for their decision was also that her son got his desired combination of subjects at the international school

Arthi Krishna Kumar, whose two sons moved to the International School of Choueifat, Dubai, from an Indian school recently, says that the Indian syllabus is synonymous with tuitions.

She says that with plans chalked for a higher education in the US, the international curriculum would prepare them adequately.

Also, she reasons that a multicultural mix of students would gear her sons to move with people from different communities in the future. “The all round development of kids is significantly higher in this atmosphere, unlike in Indian schools,” she adds.

The Winchester School, Dubai, has seen a significant increase in Indian students seeking admission this year.

“Of the 405 new entrants, more than a hundred of them are Indians who have been enrolled in our school so far for the next academic year,” says principal Raminder Vig. He points out there are several reasons for the shift in mindsets apart from the rote learning. “Many parents want British qualifications for their kids and some Indian qualifications may not be accepted in the UK,” he says stressing that this doesn’t imply that the Indian curriculum is not succeeding.

“People perceive that IGCSE or IB is better and look at it as an investment,” he says.

Vig concedes that the increasing number is also an indicator of growing affluence among Indian parents.

Principal of Al-Mizhar American Academy for Girls, Delice Scotto, also observes that it is the presence of diversity in international schools that attracts Indian parents. “ I think they tend to recognise that society is multi-cultural and that by putting their kids in an international environment, helps adequately prepare them for their future,” she says.

The school has also seen a significant increase in Indian students since its inception three years ago.


New rules for labour housing soon

ABU DHABI — AUG 19: In its inspection campaign recently, the Ministry of Labour (MoL) focused on the standard of housing meant for labourers.

Officials of the inspection department visited 312 camps inhabited by workers engaged in heavy labour in various sectors.

Article No 104 of the Labour Law states that the employer or the sponsor must provide six major facilities to the workers: transportation, decent accommodation, drinking water, food, first aid unit, and recreation centre.

However, according to Mohsen Ali Saeed, director of the Inspection Department in the MoL’s Abu Dhabi office, the MoL is drafting fresh terms and conditions for labour accommodations so that they meet international standards.

“The accommodations should also have fire alarms, kitchens, emergency exits, housekeeping service, in addition to the first aid facility,” Saeed said. The MoL is giving top priority to housing as the workers have the right to take rest after a full day of hard labour. The place that the workers use should be clean and safe.

Khaleed Al Menhali, head of the Occupational Safety and Health at the MoL, said, “If we find violations by any company we report the matter to the ministry for suitable actions. If firms are found repeatedly violating the law we impose a Dh10,000 fine and downgrade the company’s status.”

Many workers who live in labour accommodations suffer from various problems. Waheed, an Egyptian who works as a security guard, said, “We are 10 people living in a small room and we can’t move inside the room freely.”

Shaheed, a Pakistani worker, said, “We cannot breathe fresh air when we sleep because of the large number of workers in the housing. Moreover, we have no place for recreation.”

Commenting on the need for labour townships, Khalfan Al Ka’abi, head of the Construction Committee at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) and Charman of the Board of Industrial City in Abu Dhabi (ICAD), said, “We really need such cities because that is the best solution to the housing problem for workers, in particular.”

During the next five years, 25 ‘workers cities’ will come up in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai. These would be equipped with all the facilities and services that the workers need for their daily existence.

“When the workers return to their accommodations in such these cities they will find everything they need such as shops, groceries, entertainments, recreation centres, gyms and medical facilities,” said Al Ka’abi.


Precaution necessary in high temperature

UAE - AUG 19: Sharjah and Abu Dhabi experienced one of the hottest days in the season when the mercury rose to 47 °C each on Saturday.

Dubai recorded the maximum temperature of 45.2°C but the comfort index was pegged at 2 for most of the hours, only rising to 4 for a brief period at 4pm, stated Duty Forecaster at Dubai International Airport, David Vorster.

He said that developments of thunderstorm were reported from the mountainous regions of the Emirates.

Sila and its surroundings areas witnessed heavy downpour stretching from the town up to Al Hamra area.

The rains, which lasted for some time, were accompanied by windstorm, WAM added.

Rak Al Khaimah and Al Ain recorded the maximum temperature of 45°C each.

Humidity level was quite on a lower side with maximum Relative Humidity (RH) pegged at 40 per cent while minimum RH only 6 per cent in Dubai.

Sharjah also recorded low humidity level with maximum RH rising to 60 per cent while minimum only 9.

A leading doctor from Jebal Ali Hospital, Dr Suresh Menon, however, said that labourers working under the high temperatures are vulnerable to the heat stroke despite low humidity.

He said that less cases of dehydration among workers would, however, be reported due to less humidity.

Dr Menon who is working in the heat stroke department of the hospital, said heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia (abnormally elevated body temperature) with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms.

"Unlike heat cramps and heat exhaustion, two less severe forms of hyperthermia, heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not properly and promptly treated," he observed.

He said that body thermostat mechanism can fail under high temperatures, exposing workers to heat stroke.

The doctor said that the heat stroke symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness or vertigo, fatigue, hot, flushed, dry skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, shortness of breath, decreased level of urination, blood in urine or stool, increased body temperature (104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit), confusion, delirium or loss of consciousness and convulsions.

"Heat stroke, however, can occur suddenly without any symptoms of heat exhaustion," he added.

Meanwhile, people are wishing an early end to the long spell of high temperatures.

"The school will now open in the next few weeks and I wish fall in temperatures sooner than expected," remarked an anxious mother, Marie D. Costa.

She pointed out that children are the soft targets and high temperatures could create serious problems for them.

Two killed after vehicle overturns

 Ras Al Khaimah - AUG 19: Two Indians were killed on Saturday after their vehicle overturned following a tyre burst on Al Rafae Street in Ras Al Khaimah.

A senior officer at the Traffic and Licensing Department said four Indians were in the pick-up vehicle heading towards Ras Al Khaimah when the vehicle overturned after a tyre burst.

The officer said that the vehicle hit a car driven by an Emirati woman on the other side of the road injuring her as well.

The 36-year-old driver, Mathew, and his 37-year-old friend, Bardeep, were killed while other passengers were injured.

They were taken to the Saqr Hospital where they were admitted to ICU and the medics said their condition was critical.


Onam celebrations begin at IAS

SHARJAH - AUG 19: A ten-day Onam celebration started on Friday at Indian Association Sharjah (IAS) community hall. Association's general secretary Abdulla Mallachery and treasurer PP Dileep inaugurated the annual celebration.

PP Dileep lit the traditional lamp to mark the launch of the IAS Onam 2007, which was attended by a large crowd.

A team of percussionists played the traditional chendamelam (drums) which drummed up the spirit.

The association is celebrating the Onam festival at such a grand scale for the first time in its 28-year history.

IAS has arrayed a variety of entertainment programmes and competitions for the community that include musical events, Thiruvathira for ladies, floral decoration (Athappookkalam) and sports competitions.

A grand Onam feast (Onasadhya), the most important part of the festival, is scheduled to be held on Sept.7, which is expected to attract about 7,000 members of the community.

A special souvenir will also be published to mark the occasion.

Individuals and other organisations can participate in the art and cultural programmes during the festivities.

One may contact the IAS office for further details.




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