News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Dubai - Tower fire victim

Dubai - March 04: A 27-year-old Indian expat says he has no hope of working again after the Fortune Tower blaze left him severely injured. Suresh Kochunarayanan is forced to walk with crutches as his left foot was crushed during his desperate attempt to escape from the 25th floor of the burning building in Dubai on January 18.

Suresh was working as a glass fitter when the fire broke out. Panicked workers started running for their lives and even jumping out of the tower to escape the fire. Two died. Suresh said he was stranded and decided to use the steel wires hanging outside the tower to climb down and escape. “I put a cloth around the wires and started to clamber down. It worked for around six floors, but then I just started sliding down really fast,” said Suresh. He lost control and fell before crashing to the ground.

He was rushed to Rashid Hospital and treated for 18 days. He now has six steel rods supporting his foot connected with steel wire. Faced with uncertainly of ever being able to walk without help, Suresh says he just wants to get back home. “I’m not hopeful of walking again. I just want to get back to my old parents in India. The Fortune Group did the best they could by paying the hospital bills and also gave me dhs7000. But I don’t think I can do much with so little money,” he said.

“I have my parents who are dependent on me for a living. If I cannot work they will starve to death,” he said. The Fortune Group said it would extend all help to workers if they suffered permanent disability. A spokesman for the group said yesterday it would pay ten years’ salary to those crippled in the blaze.


GCC panels to meet to discuss avian flu

ABU DHABI — March 4: GCC health committees, including the one on animal health, will meet soon to discuss the latest developments concerning bird flu with emphasis on fresh cases reported in Kuwait last week, Dr Mohammed Saeed Al Kindi, Minister of Environment and Water, has disclosed.

Al Kindi told Khaleej Times that the meeting would explore ways of enforcing the  strategy adopted by the GCC secretariat-general to respond to the outbreak of avian flu.

He said that a ban was slapped on import of live birds from Kuwait and that the UAE companies which are doing business with Kuwaiti suppliers of frozen chickens were informed to stop imports.

The minister said that stricter precautionary measures had been taken at borders and the country’s airports.

“Birds imports will only be allowed into the country through the international airports in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah in addition to the Ghuweifat border check post,” he maintained.

He said inbound frozen chicken and bird shipments were being  subjected to inspection and tests for 15 days before they were released so as to ensure they were free of bird flu or any other diseases. Shipments are also required to carry a valid health clearance certificate.


New cancer treatment will not affect healthy tissues

ABU DHABI — March 4: A new diagnostic imaging is likely to be introduced in the UAE for treating cancer without affecting healthy tissues.

The method is considered a revolution in the magnetic resonance field.

This was revealed by the renowned developer of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine Prof Raymond V. Damadian in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times on the sidelines of an international conference on surgery.

“We will bring a new technology known as MRI Operating Room to the UAE and introduce it to other countries around the world which are interested to buy it. This machine minimise the effects chemical therapy has on healthy human tissues,” said Prof Damadian, President and Chairman of ‘FONAR’, the MRI specialist.

He was on a short visit to the country where he took part in the third UAE International Surgical Conference that started on March 1 and will continue for four consecutive days.

The MRI Operating Room is a room where doctors can walk inside the MRI machine and have the picture of a patient’s anatomy appear on the wall to allow doctors to use the image to guide their surgery, said Prof Damadian.

He explained that the machine allows a new level of discrimination as it allow doctors to visualise the needle when it is put in the tumour and hence enable them to inject an anti-cancer agent into the tumour directly.

“Doctors themselves will not be really staying in the magnetic field because it will be just on the patient,” noted the expert. At present, in the chemical treatment of cancer people take a pill that goes to all tissues of the body and makes them sick so they are given limited doses to avert impact of the therapy on the body’s other tissues.

“By using MRI Operating Room doctors will not be obliged to limit the doses patients might need. This new breakthrough technology allows patients to have high doses and repeat the doses as required,” clarified Prof Damadian, noting that the technology has already been installed in Oxford University in the UK. The expert expressed his satisfaction with Recalling his successful experience, Prof Damadian said: “When I developed the MRI machine my principal interest was to use it in early detection of cancer, and monitoring the chemical response of cancer tissue to know whether the therapy was successful. That was my main motivation.”

The MRI machine is widely used in the UAE as the sole indispensable and most reliable machine to diagnose serious diseases.


Rashid Colony residents insist on alternative plan

DUBAI — March 4: The 350 families living in buildings 1, 2 and 3 of the Shaikh Rashid Colony, who have been served an eviction notice, have said they will not move out of their homes until the authorities provide them with alternative accommodation.

The residents told Khaleej Times that on humanitarian grounds, the Dubai Development Board, the Dubai Municipality and the Municipal Council should first keep their promise of providing alternative accommodation to those who would soon be rendered homeless.  

Officials made it clear in a recent meeting that the three buildings would be demolished. They also said a decision on alternative arrangements would hopefully be finalised on March 20.

Most residents complained that the authorities had not given them any breather. “We hoped that the issue would be finally resolved at the meeting,” said one of the residents.

“But the authorities assured us that they would be talking to the Properties Department, the Real Estate Department and the Ruler’s Court and will try to provide us with new homes. However,  it is still not very clear whether we are going to get it or not. What if the authorities don’t succeed?” asked Shailja G, a resident.

“We have discussed amongst ourselves that we cannot vacate our homes and live on the streets if these buildings are demolished. At the moment, there appears to be no solution in sight.”

“Though we do not doubt the intentions of officials, we still fear that if the buildings are demolished, we will have no place to live. And this will be a nightmare for us,” said Abu Hena Choudhery, another resident.

However, some hoped that the authorities would come to their rescue. “I am sure that they will keep their word,” said Vineetha.

Officials of the Dubai Rent Committee, who are looking into the matter along with the other departments, said talks are on and a final decision is expected on March 20.


Gradual increase in temperature

ABU DHABI — March 4: Strong north-western winds laden with sand that have been sweeping across the Emirates for the past two days will continue to blow across the country in the next few days, according to the weather forecast department.

An official at the department said the temperature will also witness a gradual increase in the next few days.


2,500 students form human world map

ABU DHABI — March 4: More than 2,500 students took part in a national campaign to form a human world map under the slogan ‘We all love Zayed’ yesterday at Mohammad bin Zayed Stadium in Al Jazeera Sports Club.

Under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the event was aimed at expressing feelings of love and loyalty to the nation and profound affection for the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father.

The ceremony was organised by the Ministry of Education, Abu Dhabi Educational Zone, the UAE Red Crescent Society (RCS), International Emirati Group of Heart Diseases, Abu Dhabi Police Headquarters, Emirates Heritage Club, Authority of Agriculture and Municipalities, General Authority of Health Services in Abu Dhabi.

The students formed a human map in the stadium by standing together in formations ressembling various continents of  the world. They also carried huge portraits of late Shaikh Zayed and the UAE leaders, including the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai,  and General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Education Minister Dr Hanif Hassan, said, “This demonstration is expression of  real love for the late Shaikh Zayed who had done all the achievements and advancements that we live in nowadays.”

“The human map was made by thousands of students, from the private and public schools who expressed their loyalty and love and expressed gratitude for the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” added the minister.

Dr Adel Abdullah Al Shameri, General Coordinator of the event, said, “We aim to increase the awareness about the heart diseases and support the heart patients”.

Meanwhile, Dr Peter Iden, Chief of the Board of the National Institution of Training (NIT), said that the demonstration would enhance social work. The age of the participants ranged from 14 to 24 years.


Green Line on track for 2010 completion

DUBAI — March 4: The Green Line, known as the second phase of the Dubai Metro project, is making substantial progress.

With six underground stations and 12 elevated stations to be built, the line is scheduled to be completed in March 2010.

Adnan Al Hammadi, Director of Construction, the Rail Agency, said, “Site investigation has been completed for Salahuddin, Baniyas, Palm Deira,  Al Ras, Al Gubaiba and Saeediya while on the elevated stations the investigations are in progress. Utility diversion works which include electricity, water and Etisalat cables are due to commence for Baniyas, and Saeediya.”

“The main construction which involves the building of the diaphragm wall is scheduled to start next month in Al Ghubaiba and Al Ras while preparatory works are in progress in Baniyas. These works include setting up of site offices, work areas, and initial works for utility diversions. Traffic diversions are being planned for Baniyas and Saeediya to facilitate construction of underground stations. An old school at Al Ras Al Ahmadiya has been demolished,” he added.

Like the Red Line, the Green Line comprises both underground and elevated sections which will have varying degrees of impact on the traffic network within the heart of Dubai city. Most of the stations are elevated. The total length of the track will be 23km in length.

The initial line capacity for the Green Line, in 2010 is 7,346 ppdph (persons per direction per hour) while the ultimate line capacity for the Green Line is 15,680 ppdph. There will be two interchange stations at Union Square and BurJuman. Park and ride facilities will be available at Al Ghusais depot. The police residence in Ghusais will be demolished and car park for 6,000 cars will be constructed.


Need felt for more female paramedics

DUBAI — March 4: Female paramedics are better in handling emergency situations, but their ‘physical attributes’ are one reason why their male counterparts still outnumber them in the field.

In reply to a demand from residents of Dubai that a substantial number of female paramedics should be stationed at public places to deal with female-related emergencies, an official from the Unified Ambulance Centre said that it was not always feasible to dispatch female paramedics to emergency situations that required more of ‘physical work.’

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Khalifa Hassaan Al Darrai, CEO of Unified Ambulance Centre (UAC), said that the centre had set up 43 emergency stations in different parts of Dubai to react to emergencies.

“If we receive a call from a place which is nearer to anyone of these stations, then a team of paramedics is dispatched immediately. And it is not necessary that there will be a female paramedic present at any of these stations during that particular emergency,” he explained.

He also said that female paramedics were very active in the field, but in certain situations, it was a better decision to dispatch male paramedics. “I do not see the difference between male and female paramedics during emergency, because both are working to save lives,” he added.

At present, the UAC has a total of 500 paramedics out of which 75 are female employees. “The number is expected to increase soon because a batch of the first UAE national group of paramedics will be joining the centre soon,” added Al Darrai.

However, residents feel that on several occasions, the absence of female paramedics was acutely felt. “This is an Islamic country and I feel that if there is any emergency situation in a public place, then at least, one female member from the paramedic team should be stationed at shopping malls and hotels,” said Hanifa Mahmood, who had to face a similar situation recently.

Says Mayada Alwi, an Arab expatriate housewife, “One of my female relatives passed out in a shopping mall recently. Though the authorities reacted quickly and called the paramedics, I noticed that while my relative was being shifted to an ambulance, her dress was in disarray, exposing her partly. On top of that she was being handled by male paramedics.”

‘We are from a family that take care in observing the Hijab strictly. If my relative knows what happened to her after she fainted she will be very embarrassed. I strongly feel that the number of female paramedics should be increased,” she added.

Says Al Darrai, “There is no restriction on the number of females paramedics being hired, but most of them quit due to family related problems.”


‘Marble showers’ threaten passers-by

AL AIN — March 4: Several people have had a close shave when huge marble slabs fell off a residential building in the city’s Al Morabaa area near the Al Madina police station.

Hamed El Sadry, a national, and his daughter had a narrow escape recently when some marble chunks from the building fell just in front of them when they were passing by.

“The building is a threat to people’s lives,” said Sadry, who notified its owner immediately after the incident. The owner apparently assured residents of the area that he would soon do the repair work.

Salem Ebaid, another resident of the Morabaa area, said the building is one of the oldest in the neighbourhood that requires urgent maintenance operations. “We do not know if it’s the fault of the works department or the building’s owner.”

An eyewitness said a few days ago, a window air-conditioner fell off the same building and damaged a car.

The Al Ain Department of Municipalities and Agriculture (AADMA) announced a new plan to develop the Al Morabaa area along with the Al Ain old city including Niyadat, Kowaitat and Oud Attoubah.

An AADMA official said some old houses needed to be rebuilt.


Credit card: Boon or bane?

ABU DHABI — March 3: Is credit card an unavoidable necessity? Is it a temptation hard to resist? Does the salesman who sells the idea to you narrate the real story? Or does he hide some information, that you may later repent on learning? Khaleej Times talked to some people to find out their views.

Some of the individuals interviewed by Khaleej Times regretted buying credit cards, saying it proved a very costly error for them.

Talking about the credit cards salesmen, some of the residents used words like cheating, fraudulence, cunning, and dishonesty. They accused credit cards agents of tempting customers into purchasing their products without revealing the real charges that the cardholder will have to incur.

These salesmen are concerned only about their commissions, some of the residents said, urging the authorities concerned  to intervene in the matter and save people from investing in cards without knowing the actual repercussions.

Banking experts, however, blamed the financial and banking institutions for relying on agents who live on commissions to promote their products, endangering the reputation of these organisations.

George Nicolas Abu Haider, a private sector employee, said he had a bitter experience with credit card. “I was cheated by a salesman who told me lies about the interest rates and membership fees. I fell in the trap because I was shown the only bright side of the bargain. However, I later discovered that I had been misguided. Ultimately, I ended up paying money to cancel the card,” he narrated.

Said Hamid Ibrahim Hassan, a government employee: “A salesman offered me a credit card without asking for any guarantees. I found the offer tempting, especially in view of the spiralling cost of living. The salesman convinced me to sign papers which carried information that was not disclosed to me. I was not briefed on the consequences of late payment. I landed in a big mess. I have vowed not to use credit cards again.”

Ashraf Salih, an architect at a private company said, “credit card agents know how to increase the outstanding limit earmarked for customers in order to hike the interests in a very deceptive manner, like allowing the user to make purchases from merchants or paying car insurance installment.”

Salih added: “Salesmen hide a lot of information from the customers. They do not portray a clear picture about the interest to be charged or the difficulties one might have to face in case of failing to pay on time. These people resort to all possible means to make you buy the cards.”

When contacted, a banking expert said banking institutions should not rely on hired agents to promote credit cards in return for a commission. “These people do not have a loyalty, and therefore, do not care about the reputation of the bank,” he pointed out.


Fast food debate hots up again  
McDonald’s UAE branch dismisses Prince Charles’ remarks as personal, but doctors look at  the larger issue

Dubai - March 4: The UAE headquarters of fast food giant McDonald’s has said that Prince Charles’ comments on their products represented his personal point of view and did not reflect whatsoever either their food menu or where they were at as a business.

McDonald’s officials in the UAE added that as a responsible brand, McDonald's is committed to the well-being of its customers and this is clearly reflected in the efforts put behind promoting a balanced lifestyle; through education, menu choice and physical activity.  There are 25 McDonald's outlets in the UAE and the first opened in December 1994.

Doctors in the UAE, however, remain divided about the import of the Prince's comments – that fast food is really bad for health. Dr. Maha Taysir Barakat, Consultant Endocrinologist and Medical and Research Director at ICLDC said they agreed with the Prince that eating a healthy and balanced diet and consuming no one particular food in excess was the right way to go.

“Some fast food chains have introduced some healthy alternatives to their traditional offerings. There are fast food restaurants popping up that offer only healthy food, thereby attempting to change the concept of what we know as fast food today.

“Regulation of unhealthy fast food sales and marketing could be one solution, but this should go hand-in-hand with other initiatives such as public education about the effect of excessive consumption of fats, sugars and salt. Bottom line: Act now for a healthier, longer life,” she says.

Dr. Nooshin Bazargani, Cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, feels that the ill effects of fast food on adults and children are many.

“Fast food is rich in calories, so frequent eaters will put on weight that can turn into an obesity problem. It is a problem that is commonly seen among children these days and thus their lifespan is becoming far less than their parents. In addition, the cholesterol in fast food can lead to several heart diseases,” she says.

Dr. Bazargani, however, adds that fast food can be consumed in moderate quantities if balanced by a nutritious diet and moderate exercise three times a week.

Other experts believe that fast food giants are not to blame. Dr. Wafaa Hilmi Ayesh, Head of Clinical Nutrition at the DOHMS points out that a three-egg omelette held more dangers for consumers than a big juicy burger.  “Three eggs contain five times more cholesterol than a burger. Further, the bun is a source of carbohydrates and the tomato and lettuce might be the only vegetables that the child would ever eat. The meat is grilled apart from the fillets that are fried. Eating the additives to the burger i.e. the fries and cola could be more harmful than the actual burger,” she says.

Dr. Ayesh adds that international fast food chains could be trusted because they generally adopt stringent quality checks.  "Eating from a road stall is definitely more harmful to health. However, this is not to say that burgers and pizzas should be an individual’s only meals. Eating a burger for lunch with salad and water is definitely an okay option rather than having a value meal with fries and cola as a snack. As with everything, practicing moderation is the key,” says Dr. Ayesh.

What Prince Charles said

On his visit to the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC) in Abu Dhabi, Prince Charles reportedly asked one of the nutritionists at the centre, “Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s? Have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key.”



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