NEWS FROM THE UAE
Source : The National / Gulf Today
Sizzling summer heats up demand for drinking water
UAE - JUL 16:Drinking water consumption in the UAE has reached an all-time high due to the scorching summer with consumption reaching up to 700,000 five-gallon bottles a day. This is said to be 60 per cent more than the usual consumption.
The beverage market in the UAE witnessed the fastest growth with the booming bottled water consumption and the arrival of new brands. The major water production companies in the country supply 500,000-700,000 five-gallon water bottles per day during this summer, market sources said.
With the added 60 per cent hike in water consumption this summer, most of the water bottling companies in the UAE are not in a position to cope with the demand in the local market. Considering the increased production cost, the debates on pricing structures are still ongoing seriously among water factory associations in the UAE.
CA Abraham, managing director Al Amtar Water and president of Ajman Water Producers Association, says: "As a result of the hottest temperatures in the summer, drinking water is in great demand in the UAE and the consumption has increased to double."
"Actually, we struggle to meet the demand in the market. Most of the water supply companies are unable to supply as per the demand from the market. The volume of supply is almost three times higher in the summer, rather than other seasons," he added.
Meanwhile, the price for the five-gallon bottled drinking water also has increased remarkably, due to recent price hikes of diesel and other costs. Most of the water companies have increased the price of bottled water with upto two Dirhams. High production costs, and the increase in the prices of raw materials including poly carbonate bottles and caps are other reasons, which the water companies are unable to afford. It may increase again if the situation continues like this, he added.
Five-gallon water bottles, produced by different manufactures, are sold at seven to 10 Dirhams. Meanwhile, ZULAL, the drinking water bottling company owned by the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) sells five-gallon water bottles for five Dirhams.
Riyas Syed Mohammed, general manager Al Bayan Water states: "Compared to the off-season, we experience 35 to 45 per cent sales growth in the summer period. We are planning more precautions overcome the drinking water crisis and meet the market demand."
Ashraf, Helen Super Market, Sharjah said: "We sell sixty bottles of five-gallon drinking water per day in the summer, while we sell only 30 bottles in other seasons. In the case of small 1.5-litre water bottles, we have a demand for 30 cartons per week."
Take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion'
Doctors have advised residents to take precautions as hospitals and health centres in Dubai have been receiving many cases of heat exhaustion in the past few weeks.
As ground temperatures shoot up beyond 50ºC in the UAE, at least one case of death due to heat stroke has been reported in Dubai, while about 10 to 15 patients with symptoms of heat exhaustion are daily taken to government hospitals by the fleet of Unified Ambulance Centre.
This excludes those who are taken to hospitals and health centres in private vehicles.
Dr Viktor Mikhaeel Butros, surgical specialist in-charge at the Emergency and Trauma Centre in Rashid Hospital told The Gulf Today that at least a handful of workers reached the emergency department every day due to severe heat exhaustion and related problems.
"The rest of them have been moderate cases, which do not require hospital admission. These patients are treated at the emergency department and sent back once their condition improves."
The Trauma Centre received 21 moderate cases of heat exhaustion in June, but the number for this month has jumped to 28 by mid July. The centre reported four major cases of heat exhaustion on Tuesday, which included an Indian labourer who sustained a head injury after falling from the first floor of a building under construction.
Dubai Hospital, the next major government hospital receiving heat related cases, also reported similar number of cases since last month, according to the head of its emergency department Dr Mohammed Al Jamal. Confirming the death of a 20-year-old labourer last week was due to heat stroke, Jamal said, it was the only case of heat stroke received in the hospital this year.
"His core body temperature was 44ºC when he was being picked for shifting to hospital. When he reached the hospital, his temperature was 41ºC. The rest of the cases that we handled so far have been not severe. Most of them are minor cases. Fortunately, after the introduction of the midday break three years ago, we have been receiving lesser number of cases than earlier."
Al Baraha Hospital under the Ministry of Health has also received some patients, who used the services of the Unified Ambulance Centre.
According to family physician Dr Ahad Shahin, the primary health centres under the Department of Health and Medical Services (Dohms) in Dubai also have been receiving patients complaining of weakness, giddiness and headache due to extreme hot conditions.
"Health centres in Jebel Ali and Satwa are getting more cases as most of their clients are labourers working in the nearby areas," said Shahin, who is also the Deputy Head of Al Mamzar health centre.
The number of heat related cases reported in private hospitals in this summer was not immediately available. However, previous records with Dohms show that there was about 65 to 70 per cent decrease in the number of heat effects among patients who attended the private health facilities in Dubai in the past three years.
As per Dohms statistics, heat effects reported in private sector facilities dropped from 2328 in 2004 to 821 cases in 2006, amounting to 64.73 per cent decrease. The number of cases reported in July 2007 was 215 compared to 764 in July 2004 which shows a 71 per cent dip.
A 2007 Dohms study also showed that majority of the people who fell ill due to heat effects were Asians (88.8 per cent). Arabs formed 6.1 per cent which included 66 UAE nationals. The rest of the cases were reported in people from various nationalities.
Men, especially those in the age group of 25 to 44 years, formed the majority of the cases while heat exhaustion amounted to about three fourths of the cases (71.4 per cent) followed by heat cramps, heat fatigue and sun stroke.
Though the midday break rule imposed by the Ministry of Labour has had major impact in reducing the number of heat effects in the recent years, doctors have asked residents, especially workers toiling out in the sun, to take extra precautions for avoiding the ill-effects of summer heat.
Those suffering from heat exhaustion generally show symptoms of high core body temperature, giddiness, dizziness, nausea and headache. If left untreated, heat stroke can lead to death.
Doctors, who spoke to The Gulf Today, advised people to considerably increase their fluid intake. Avoiding exposure to sun during the peak hours between 11am and 3pm is the first thing that anyone can do to prevent heat exhaustion.
Those working outside have been advised to drink two cups of water every hour of the day, while others also have to drink more water than usual.
Electrolyte drinks, which are rich in minerals and salt, have been preferred during summer months, but consumption of fizzy drinks, alcohol and coffee should be reduced.
Doctors said avoiding heavy and hot food items and going for a light diet can also help in reducing heat effects. Wearing light cotton clothes, sunglasses and applying sun creams are other measures that people can take for escaping from heat related illnesses.
UAE Collision ruse in theft, murder
Shameer Musa Cuba Otayel's white Toyota Camry,was rammed by the suspects' vehicle. Officers believe Mr Otayel may have got out of his car, thinking he had been involved in an accident and, as one man got out and engaged him in conversation, the other ran him down.
DUBAI - JUL 16: A businessman who stopped his car because he thought he had been involved in an accident was run over, robbed and left for dead by two men who had followed him from the bank where he had just withdrawn Dh329,000 (US$89,600).
Police revealed today that Shameer Musa Cuba Otayel, an Indian fuel trader, had left Dubai Islamic Bank in Ras al Khor on June 26, carrying an envelope full of money he was planning to invest in property.
Waiting outside, they say, were Ifshar Nick Zada, an Iranian, and Mohamed Ali Ahmed al Falahi, whose citizenship is unclear.
Police say the two men, both in their early 30s, had been waiting outside the bank since 9am, watching for a suitable victim. At just past noon, they spotted Mr Otayel leaving the bank and decided to follow him.
According to police, Mr Otayel was followed for 2km before he drove into a quiet street in the garages area of Al Aweer, where the two men saw their opportunity and rammed their victim’s white Toyota Camry.
Officers believe Mr Otayel may have got out of his car, thinking he had been involved in an accident and, as one man got out and engaged him in conversation, the other ran him down.
Police allege the two men then took Mr Otayel’s money and his car and left him for dead at the side of the road.
“The man was pronounced dead a few minutes after the arrival of the emergency services, who worked hard to try and save him,” said Col Khalil Ibrahim al Mansouri, deputy director of the crime unit in the criminal investigation department (CID) at Dubai police, at a press conference today.
At first, police thought they were dealing with a hit-and-run accident. “However,” said Col Mansouri, “with further investigation it became evident that it was more than that.”
Police quickly found out that Mr Otayel had visited a bank that morning in his car. Then they discovered that his car and the cash he had withdrawn were missing.
“We quickly responded and a team of 60 were dispatched and worked with several emirates in search of the killer,” said Col Khalil. At one point, 120 CID officers and other personnel were involved in the hunt.
Working closely with police in Ajman and Sharjah, where the victim had lived with his pregnant wife and young daughter – it took the team a few weeks to close the net on the suspects.
The first break came when police found the victim’s car, which had been abandoned in an industrial area of Sharjah, and were able to determine the type of vehicle that had been used in the crime.
“Since there were no eyewitnesses, the team worked around the clock to catch any strings,” said Col Khalil. Every clue was examined forensically, including tyre prints and the mark left on the victim’s car. “By analysing the level of collision, angle, height, paint colour and tyre marks, the conclusion led us on a hunt for a white Prado 4x4,” he said.
Police say the two suspects did their best to erase all evidence on the victim’s car by spraying it with a fire hose. “They sprayed it completely to try and hide their prints but that did not wipe out the impact left by the crash,” said a police spokesman.
Officers examined 2,800 Prados from around the country. Eventually, they found the car they were looking for, abandoned in an Ajman industrial area. The Prado had been stolen from a Dubai petrol station and the plates fitted to it had been taken from a vehicle in Sharjah.
Further investigation led police to the first suspect. “CID identified the first man involved and found out that he travelled abroad and had information on when he was planning to return,” said the spokesman.
Police were waiting at Dubai International Airport when the man returned from a short trip.
“Upon questioning, the man confessed to the crime and the cash was returned,” said the spokesman. “He also handed over information about his accomplice, who was arrested a day later.”
Both men are in custody and the case has been referred to the public prosecution office, which will set a court date.
Penalty system succeeds as drivers reduce speed
Under the points system, drivers with 24 penalty points lose their licence for three months. The National
ABU DHABI - JUL 16: Cases of speeding and other traffic violations have plummeted since the introduction of the penalty-points system under which motorists can lose their licences, Abu Dhabi police said yesterday.
The police have claimed their first victory against one of the country’s deadliest problems after releasing figures suggesting a 56 per cent drop in traffic offences since the introduction of the system on March 1. The number of traffic tickets issued between March and June fell to 159,770 – less than half the 363,067 issued in the same period last year.
Nevertheless, police say they are pressing ahead with efforts to reduce the number of deadly traffic accidents by escalating their campaign against reckless driving on inner-city roads and motorways. Col Hamad Adil al Shamsi, director of the traffic and patrol department of the Abu Dhabi police, said it was vital to reduce traffic offences to minimise the risk of fatal crashes.
“Analysing the causes of traffic accidents indicated that most of them were preceded by traffic violations,” Col Shamsi said in a statement. He said he was certain the traffic points system and amendments to the 1995 traffic law, which took effect on March 1, had been effective.
“One positive indicator that has been achieved in the last few months was the great decrease in grave offences that would lead to traffic accidents,” he said.
Police figures show that speeding offences dropped to 60,271 in the four-month period, from 232,633 in the same period last year. Similarly, the number of drivers caught crossing red lights fell to 753 from 3,383 last year, and the number of drivers penalised for obstructing traffic flow fell to 13,014 from 18,550 in the same four months of 2007.
Earlier this month, Col Ghaith al Zaabi, director of the traffic department at the Ministry of Interior, said indicators showed the number of traffic offences had decreased and drivers’ behaviour had improved. The number of cars with worn tyres also fell from 3,187 to 2,411. Those reported for not using seat belts fell to 8,576, down from 18,183 in the same period last year.
Police have also focused on pedestrian offenders, particularly jaywalkers. People caught jaywalking soared to 3,814 between March and June, from 247 during the same period last year.
Under the points system, drivers with 24 penalty points lose their licence for three months.
This is extended to six months if the offences are repeated, and drivers who receive three bans can lose their licence for a year. Banned drivers must attend a training course before drive again.
In the past, drivers could receive several speeding tickets without receiving warnings or tougher penalties. Cars were only confiscated in rare cases, such as driving a vehicle without registration plates.
In Dubai, officials said the number of people caught speeding by radar had fallen since March. “The increased fines could have served as a deterrent,” an official said. However, Dubai police officials feared the new system was not effective across the board.
Dubai police said this week that more than 1.3 million traffic tickets had been issued this year and the figure was likely to surpass last year’s two million tickets if the current rates continued.
Col Zaabi chairs an evaluation committee set up by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, which has held six meetings to evaluate the implementation of the new traffic rules and has submitted a report to Sheikh Saif.
Residents say they have noticed a decrease in the number of accidents in Abu Dhabi, and some noted greater consciousness about using seat belts. However, others said more should be done to bring reckless driving under control.
“Traffic problems and speeding and all that has got better,” said Naushad Omar, 32, from India. “You can start to feel it and it seems like accidents have decreased. The black-point system is good. I can really see the difference, especially recently.”
Mariam Saeed, 29, an Emirati, said: “At first, I wasn’t convinced by all the regulations and policies, but once I thought about it I realised it was for my own safety and for the people around me.
“I think it’s just a matter of people becoming more aware of the problem, then, with time, they will get better at abiding by all the laws.”
Faisal Hameed, 22, from Morocco, said he had noticed a change in drivers’ behaviour for the first time since he started driving five years ago. “Even those in sports cars [drive slower now],” he said. “Driving in Abu Dhabi feels safer.”
Mayssa Akkela, 33, a Palestinian housewife, said it had not changed much. “People still drive recklessly and pedestrians still cross streets randomly. It’s very hectic, no one cares about it much,” she said.
Sheikh Saif told a Federal National Council meeting in March he had been asked by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince, for a report every three months on how the traffic law was being enforced. He said the report would be submitted to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, who had personally followed the implementation of the new system.
Gridlock and despair at border
Vehicles queue at the Khatam al Shakla crossing, which was hobbled by the influx of people due to new border laws and lack of equipment.
AL AIN - JUL 16: Long queues and short tempers were on display at crossing points between Al Ain and Buraimi on the first day new rules on movement across the border were implemented.
The trip, which used to take between five and 10 minutes, took Emiratis, Omanis and expatriates travelling across the Oman-UAE border more than an hour at peak periods yesterday.
As of midnight on Monday, the gates of the Al Mudeef crossing point – located in the middle of the two border towns – were closed for the last time and GCC citizens were diverted to the Al Hili crossing, which is open only to them.
Expatriates are now only able to pass between the two towns at the Khatam al Shakla border 20km outside of Al Ain and Buraimi. The reason for the new measures, say border patrol officials, is to curb illegal immigration.
However, the new eight-counter border complex at Khatam al Shakla, which was due to open yesterday, remained closed. Brig Naser al Minhali, the manager of the Department of Naturalisation and Residency in Abu Dhabi, said the opening of the new complex would be delayed until Sunday.
“We are still waiting on the delivery of customs machines, otherwise everything else is finished,” he said.
Frustrated commuters stuck in long lines in more than 45°C heat were forced to use the old crossing point at Khatam al Shakla, which is used primarily by heavy vehicles. Hundreds of lorries en route to quarries in the area towered over the smaller vehicles, some of which could not cope with the high temperatures.
A car belonging to Yousef, a Buraimi resident from India, broke down while in the queue to enter Oman, causing more congestion.
“Normally, I travel across the border five times a day because of my business,” he said, checking underneath his car bonnet to assess the damage. “I’ll only go to Al Ain once every five months if it continues like this. These changes have made it so tough on us.”
It is cheaper to live in Buraimi than Al Ain, although job opportunities are greater on the UAE side of the border, leading to many people choosing to live in Oman in recent years.
Issa Sammour, a Palestinian manager of an agricultural company, is among those who splits his time between the two towns, but said it had never taken as long to reach his home in Buraimi.
“It will now take me over an hour to reach home, if I ever get out of this queue,” he said, leaning out of the window of his Toyota Land Cruiser. “It used to take me 10 minutes, so if it continues, I don’t think I can keep travelling across every day.”
Mr Sammour said he used to cross the border four times a day, driving an average of 40km. Now, he says he will cover more than 260km every day.
“No one thinks this is a good idea,” said an American resident of Buraimi, who would identify himself only as Mike. “I’ve lived in Buraimi for seven years and it was never a problem for us to just quickly go across [to Al Ain].”
Barely moving in his 4x4, Mike said if the long lines continued, the system would not be sustainable and would split the communities in two.
“This goes against the history of this area,” he said. “Also, no one believes that these measures were brought in because of illegal immigrants.”
Before yesterday, Joseph Zach, from Germany, used to travel from his home on the UAE side of the Al Hili border to the quarry he manages on the Omani side.
“I didn’t know foreigners could not travel through Hili any more, so I lined up and then was told that I couldn’t cross over and had to come here [to Khatam al Shakla],” he said. “I have been in my car for six hours today, just waiting.”
Returning from their umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, the Abadi family were also unaware of the new rules and spent hours waiting in line to reach their home in Buraimi.
“We don’t know what is going on,” said Afra al Abadi, 31, sitting between her seven children. “We have come all the way from Saudi Arabia and we thought it would take us the normal five minutes [to cross Al Mudeef].”
Previously, residents would pass through the Al Mudeef border point, which, although designated for GCC citizens, generally allowed residents to cross without stopping and providing identification. But the gates at Al Mudeef were closed and a police patrol was guarding the UAE side of the border. A few kilometres away at the Al Hili border crossing, during the midday rush hour, cars snaked along Abu Obaida Ibn al Jarrah Street for more than 1km.
Cars from the UAE and Oman waited to go through the more stringent checking procedures at the crossing’s four passport control counters.
Ahmed al Oraimi, from Sur in Oman, was stuck in a queue with his wife and children after spending the morning in Al Ain.
“It took us one-and-a-half hours to reach Al Ain,” he said. “We are on holiday here and now we are stuck again. We have to check out of our hotel in Buraimi soon, but probably won’t make it in time.”
Some small businesses in the Al Hili area were left without customers yesterday, with the road leading to the border crossing completely blocked. An Omani helwa shop, located adjacent to the crossing point, normally sees brisk business, but was empty for much of the day.
Pulling up next to the shop, Mahfouz Saadi, an Omani employee at Al Ain Municipality, and his heavily pregnant Emirati wife, Falha, said they had never seen such long queues.
“We have family on both sides and it normally takes five minutes to cross,” Mr Saadi said. “We have been sitting in this traffic for an hour now.”
Standing on the Al Ain-bound side of the road, Mohammed Ahmed was waiting for a taxi to pick him up. The Emirati businessman from Al Ain had taken his car to be serviced in Buraimi and decided to cross back into the UAE on foot. Despite the searing temperatures and the inconvenience of waiting, he maintains the new measures were brought in for the right reasons.
“This is a good idea because the border needed to be stricter,” he said. “It is difficult, but it is good for Oman’s safety and good for the UAE’s safety.”