Dubai: Swimmers were banned from the sea yesterday after lifeguards spotted jellyfish they say have never been seen before in Dubai.
Staff at Jumeirah Beach Park speculated that the tiny purple and white creatures had been blown here by Cyclone Gonu.
Red flags were hoisted at the beach park yesterday as well as the Open Beach due to a large number of jellyfish spotted in the morning. However swimmers were seen in the late afternoon at Umm Suqeim Beach.
Barbara Scocci, 31, an Italian tourist visiting family in Dubai said an hour after she had arrived at the beach yesterday morning a Dubai Municipality jeep cruised up and down the shoreline calling everybody out of the water with a megaphone.
"It was about 10.30am and some officials turned up and were insisting that we get out of the water. They went up and down the beach a few times to get everybody out, but I didn't see anything," said Scocci.
She said lifeguards then showed her and other bathers the jellyfish captured in a cup and banned them from reentering the water.
"They said they might be poisonous. They put the red flags up and even planted flag poles in the shallow water," said Scocci.
Jerry Monroy, one of the lifeguards, said: "Two days ago we had the cyclone and now these [jellyfish] are here. Maybe it is because of the cyclone.
"I have been a lifeguard for nearly five years and it is the first time we've seen these small jellyfish in Dubai. If they touch your skin, they burn you."
Just weeks ago there were reports of large blue jellyfish washed up on the beach in Jumeirah.
Lifeguards said that these blue creatures only gave a mild sting, but they said the smaller purple and white jellyfish spotted yesterday could be more harmful. Lifeguard Jonjon Eleazar said: "This kind of jellyfish we don't see here in Dubai. We've only seen it in pictures. One man here said it would cause paralysis," he said.
Another holidaymaker Vlade Pavelcik, 38, a manager from Slovakia said lifeguards were looking around and called everybody out of the water. "They said the water was full of jellyfish. I don't know if this is a natural occurrence here. Maybe it's because of the cyclone," he said.
With people not permitted to swim, Oman Qasim Ali, a foreman at the Department of Public Parks and Horticulture for Dubai Municipality at Jumeirah Beach Park, said far fewer people were visiting yesterday.
Species: Aurelia can cause excruciating pain
The jellyfish have been identified as Aurelia Jellyfish, also known as Moon Jellyfish by Dubai Zoo Director Dr Reza Khan. One or two jellyfish of this type will not harm swimmers but hundreds could cause excruciating pain, skin rash and the sensation of receiving a small electric shock, he said.
"They are quite common to the Indian Ocean. Especially when the seas are rough in summer they are carried by the ocean current but Aurelia is not a fast mover. When the sea is pounded by wind and waves it pushes them forward to the shore," said Khan.
He said the specimens photographed looked like juveniles but adults can reach a kilogram in weight. Babies usually eject a miniature torpedo to paralyse their prey or coil their tentacles around it. Bathers would feel a prick like an electric shock if they brushed against them in the sea.
"If hundreds touched you it would be excruciating pain that might last a few hours. The best thing to do would be to go to hospital and be treated. Alkaline solutions can help," said Khan.
Have your say
Have you ever been stung by jellyfish? Do you know what to do in such a case?
A couple of years ago I saw lots of jellyfish in one famous fresh water lake (Beeyem Kaayal Ponnani) in Kerala. It was so nice to see their movements. But I was not aware they are harmful creatures. Fortunately I haven't been stung by any yet.
I saw two to three jellyfishes in the Bur Dubai Creek about two weeks ago. They were small and white in colour. I have never seen this before or since then.
I am from Pakistan and was born on an island called Manora. When I was a young boy my routine was to go to sea to catch fishes and swim. Jellyfishes would sting the tourists, who would not be able to move their legs. At that time we didn't have first aid facilities so we would do the first thing we were told and that was to pass urine on the patient and then we took an onion and rubbed it on the infected area.
I have been stung several time before in Alexandria (Mediterranean Sea). Vinegar really works when you apply it on your skin immediately after being stung.
I have seen these jellyfishes in the deep sea of Khorfakkan when I went on a fishing trip there once. Some of them can grow pretty big. And they do sting, causing a burning feeling. I was stung various times in my hands as I pulled the string from the water. I can imagine that if stung numerous times from hundreds of them (which is very possible), this can cause a serious amount of pain.
Jellyfishes have always been my nightmare. The previously seen light blue ones have always ruined my spear fishing trips. They are almost transparent, and as a result, you see it only at the last moment. Now there are more.
I have once been stung by a blue bottle fish (blue-coloured jellyfish) in Pakistan. I was in great pain and had difficulty breathing that I had to be taken to a nearby clinic where I was given oxygen and anti-allergy injections. It took eight hours for me to recover, but the pain stayed for the next two days.
Last month I visited Al Khasab in Oman and saw thousands of white-coloured white jellyfish.
I went to a private beach in Sharjah. After being in the water for an hour, I suddenly felt a scorching pain on my left shoulder. After a few minutes I saw a rash on my skin. I rushed back home, washed the area with plain water and applied antiseptic cream after drying it up. The affected area still felt painful after 10 days.
I have been stung by several jellyfish years ago because in the country where I was born (The Netherlands) we have those jellyfish or other sorts every summer. When stung by one, the best and quickest way to deal with it is to get a bottle of any type of vinegar and dab it on the spot where you have been stung. It will cool off the burning feeling and will give you some relief while you are on your way to the hospital to get proper treatment.