Experts remind motorists to pay attention to the weather forecast and to heed the advice and warnings issued by the authorities
The country’s experienced explorers and rescue workers are sounding stern warnings as the rains batter different parts of the country and authorities advise residents to stay away from flooded areas.
“The rainy season is not the time to take risks,” warns Hatta resident Fahad Mayyil. “We’ve seen a lot of people trying to get into the valley during the rain and getting into dangerous situations. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
Heavy rains caused flooding in several river valleys on Friday, with the National Center of Meteorology (NCM) releasing videos of water gushing down mountains like waterfalls, especially in the northern part of the country.
Fahad recalled his own time trapped by flash floods in the Howarat area of Ras Al Khaimah. “It happened when I was a novice explorer,” he said. “I was driving out in the rain at night. It was a steep downhill road and then up again. As soon as I drove through the trough, the water came from all directions, and before I knew it, the flood was rising and I couldn’t move.”
Fahd immediately got out of his car, and like several others who were trapped there, they moved to higher ground. The water receded for nearly two hours before he was able to recover his car. “It was a great lesson and I’m glad it didn’t get worse,” he said.
Sailing the valleys of a lifetime
For Emirati Ali Al Shammari, the dangers of the Wadi are something he takes very seriously. In fact, it was a dry river accident that prompted him to found the UAE Rescue Organization, which has been instrumental in saving thousands of residents across the country. The former soldier lost a neighbor and her young child to an accident while in Oman. “I made up my mind that day to do everything in my power to make sure I could reach and save someone who was caught in this situation,” he said.
According to Ali, the UAE rescue team received several calls during the rain. “We’re constantly trying to be successful and keep our feet on the ground,” he said. “We have rescued hundreds of people trapped in river valleys and flooded areas. However, on the rare occasion when we have contributed to the search, despite our best efforts, we have not been able to save people. Very heartbreaking.”
Al Shammari’s most important piece of advice to people is not to be reckless. “Listen to the authorities and don’t go into low-lying areas,” he warned. “The danger of debris and the strength and speed of the current could be fatal.”
The UAE rescue team coordinated rescue operations with authorities in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah during the floods. Since its inception in 2018, the organization has rescued more than 80,000 people from various perils.
For Dubai-based adventure enthusiast Mehnaz Rafeeque, a chance encounter in the rain proved to be a timely reminder. “A few years ago, my husband and I were driving back from the rain when we found a family’s car stuck in mud,” she said. “Fortunately, we have all the equipment to pull them to safety. It’s a reminder of how quickly driving in the rain can become dangerous.”
The whole family does not go out alone in rainy days. “We always make sure to go as a team,” she said. “We also avoid all uneven areas and stick to the main roads. We see rocks rolling down the hill during the rainy season, so we are also careful not to go to the side of the hill.”
Tips for staying safe in the rain
1. Avoid going to low-lying or mountainous areas: “The areas most prone to flooding are low-lying and mountainous areas,” Fahd said. “So, it’s important to avoid those during rain.”
2. Always go out together or notify friends/family of whereabouts: According to Mehnaz, it is important for those who go out in groups or to keep family or friends informed of their whereabouts.
3. Hear authoritative opinions: Ali warns explorers to check weather forecast and heed advice and warnings from authorities before venturing out
4. In case of flash floods, abandon the car and move to a higher ground: “Most people’s first instinct is to try to salvage their vehicle,” Fahad said. “However, for those who are stuck, it is important to get out of the car and move to a higher area to ensure they are not swept away.”
5. Download the UAE Rescue app: With more than 3,000 trained volunteers and advanced search and rescue tools, the UAE Rescue app is a reliable tool in emergency situations.