Worst highway auto pileup rattles orderly UAE

March 12th, 2008 - 3:44 pm ICT by admin  

Dubai, March 12 (IANS) The normally orderly United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been rattled by the country’s worst road accident in which about 150 cars crashed in heavy fog on a highway, leaving at least five people dead and hundreds injured. Around 25 vehicles were charred in the series of crashes in foggy conditions on the otherwise orderly Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday at Ghantoot, around 65 km from here.

Over 300 people were injured in this Gulf nation’s worst ever auto mishap.

“The fog was horrible. You could hardly see 10 metres in front. The initial crash happened just in front of me but it came out of nowhere because visibility was so poor,” said Taher, a 26-year-old sales engineer who was injured in the crash.

Emergency, ambulance and rescue vehicles of Abu Dhabi Police and fire engines of the Civil Defence Department as well as two helicopters from the Abu Dhabi Police Air Wing and that of Dubai Police rushed to the scene.

According to Col. Othman Al Tamami, director of the Abu Dhabi Police’s Emergency and Safety Department, three people were killed and 317 people of different nationalities injured, at least six of them seriously, in the Tuesday morning highway horror.

Unofficial reports, however, had varying figures for the death toll with some putting it at four and some at five. According to initial reports, eight people lost their lives.

There was no confirmation about the number of Indians involved in the casualties.

Al Tamami said the central operations room received information at 6:39 a.m. about a series of traffic accidents where motor vehicles were involved in multiple collisions on the road extending from Al Bahiyya flyover up to the Ghantoot flyover in the exit direction towards Dubai.

Of the injured, 34 were discharged after being given first aid.

According to Col. Hamad Adeel Al Shamsi, director of the Traffic and Patrols Department, evacuation and rescue of the injured took time due to the bad weather and the mess caused by 12 big buses that had rammed into one another.

Three of the buses were carrying around 50 construction industry labourers each.

Under normal conditions, cars on the 165 km eight-lane stretch - four on either side - between Dubai and Abu Dhabi zip through at a minimum speed of 120 kmph.

Shamsi said non-adherence to the rule of keeping safe distance between vehicles, traffic jams during the peak hours coupled with heavy fog that enveloped the area had contributed to the tragedy.

The incident kept the highway, the UAE’s busiest, closed for around five hours.

“The crash happened because everyone was speeding despite the severe weather conditions,” an Abu Dhabi police officer was quoted as saying by the local media.

“Drivers weren’t leaving a safe distance between cars and this resulted in everyone hitting each other after the first crash,” he added.

“People were yelling and screaming for help. I stopped after I saw people in very close quarters. Luckily I wasn’t speeding because visibility was very low,” said Sheeba Nair, who escaped the accident.

The highway sees heavy traffic since early morning with office-goers trying to avoid the morning peak hours.

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