‘Catastrophes, Crashes and Crimes’ sheds light on extraordinary happenings in the UAE

‘Catastrophes, Crashes and Crimes’ sheds light on extraordinary happenings in the UAE
Updated 22 June 2017

‘Catastrophes, Crashes and Crimes’ sheds light on extraordinary happenings in the UAE

‘Catastrophes, Crashes and Crimes’ sheds light on extraordinary happenings in the UAE

The title of this book, which is due to be released next month, left me perplexed and curious. Why write about catastrophes, crashes and crimes in the United Arab Emirates? The answer can be found in the introduction written by author Athol Yates, assistant professor at the Institute of International and Civil Security at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.
“The journey to produce this book started with this problem — what are the likely natural disasters and man-made threats that the UAE faces? We needed this information to ensure that what we taught in our civil security courses reflected the reality of the UAE. This posed a challenge because of the limited information available on disasters and crises in the country,” he wrote.
Subsequently, a team of volunteers was set up to read through local newspapers from the 1970s carrying articles about accidents and disasters in the UAE.
The idyllic photographs of the UAE show swaying palm trees, sand dunes, an inviting sea and a sunny sky. However, these photos should not hide the fact that the UAE has experienced a wide range of natural disasters, including earthquakes, cyclones, violent storms and even a tornado.
On Nov. 16, 1976, the Gulf Weekly Mirror reported that about 48km off the coast of Dubai, two water spouts were spotted towering more than 800 meters into the sky.
Two years later, on June 28, 1978, Emirates News informed local residents that, following a tidal wave which lashed Al-Rams and the Red Island in Ras Al-Khaimah, work had begun on building new barriers.
The local authorities’ immediate response is testimony to the exceptional leadership of the UAE as well as the skill and professionalism of its emergency and security services.
In his foreword in the book, Maj. Gen.Jassem Mohammed Al-Marzouqi, the general commander of Civil Defense, acknowledges that “ensuring safety for all cannot be achieved without widespread participation. Proactive awareness that is based on scientific analysis of incidents and facts is the only way to come up with preventive solutions to avoid disasters and accidents and reduce associated losses. The youth represent a strong and reinvigorating power in (the) community and play a fundamental role… to reduce the effects of natural and unnatural disasters, including disaster prevention.”
In this respect, local authorities acted promptly to implement the appropriate measures in order to curb the growing incidence of traffic accidents. On April 4, 1977, the Gulf Weekly Mirror reported that the police, assisted by secondary school pupils, stopped motorists to check their vehicles and their driving licenses. Dubai Police also posted a notice in the Gulf Weekly Mirror requesting people drive with extreme care when crossing through traffic light junctions and stated that any speeding, careless driving or jaywalking would result in heavy fines.
In an article entitled “Cargo of Shame,” published on Sept. 27, 1976, in the Gulf Weekly Mirror, we are reminded that human trafficking and people smuggling is nothing new.
“Even animals would have been better treated,” a UAE official said at the sight of passengers crammed into boats with hardly any room to stretch their arms and legs. No lavatories and a lack of food and water during their 20-day journey across the seas resulted in death and despair. When water supplies ran low, the passengers had to pay for a glass of water and if anyone fell sick, they were thrown overboard at gunpoint.
Sting rays, stone fish, sea snakes and sharks inhabit the Gulf’s waters but stories of people being hurt by any are rare. On Nov. 20, 1977, Simon Coulter recalled a close encounter he had with a shark while he was snorkeling near the area of Jebel Ali in Dubai.
“I was snorkeling near the surface when suddenly my flipper felt rather odd. I thought nothing more about it but 20 seconds later there was a sudden powerful electrifying surge in the water and when I looked down half my flipper had gone to within about a quarter-of-an-inch of my toes,” he said.
In the midst of articles focusing on catastrophes and accidents, I was surprised to read about the sighting of a supposed flying saucer in Dubai on Dec. 2, 1978, as reported in the Gulf Weekly Mirror. Maj. Juma of the Dubai Police was initially skeptical when the telephone claims were radioed to him, he told the newspaper. However, he then claims to have seen an object with a “neon-lit rim” in a sighting that he said lasted about five minutes before “the object disappeared as suddenly as it appeared almost like someone putting out the light.”
“This publication makes a contribution to encouraging people to be more prepared for these and other crises, as it shows that bad things do happen,” Yates wrote in the book.
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