Parents are warned against leaving their children unattended in vehicles, even if it is for a short time. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: A reported 177 children were found left in their parents’ cars in the last 15 months, a Dubai Police official said.

Police said they saved the children “moments before they risked suffocation”, with most of the children found in cars parked in shopping malls and public parks.

“We saved 137 children, who were kept in parked vehicles, last year and another 40 in the first quarter of 2015,” Major Abdullah Ali Mohammad, Director of land rescue at the General Department of Transport and Rescue, said, “Luckily, officers from the department found these children moments before they risked suffocating.”

Major Mohammad told an Arabic newspaper that such incidents are a result of negligence and lack of awareness on the part of parents.

“We’ve stumbled on quite a few shocking cases,” he said. “There was a case of a baby who had been left by his father in a car which was parked inside a dark garage. With the upcoming increase in temperature, such incidents can prove extremely dangerous and even fatal.”

Major Mohammad noted that most of the time, children are left in cars in shopping malls and public parks. “They either enter the mall or park without making sure all their children are with them or they forget the car key inside the vehicle.”

Major Mohammad said most children experience a panic attack once they find they cannot open the car door and are left alone. “Panic attacks stimulate a feeling of suffocation,” he said.

“Cases where children are trapped in cars parked in a garage are particularly dangerous,” he said. “Children climb into an unlocked vehicle and close the door only to find out they cannot open it again. Sometimes hours go by before a parent realises their child is missing. There was one case where a baby was left in the car in the garage after each parent thought the other had carried her to the house. She remained there for hours in the dark and stifling weather. The parents only found out when one of them went to check on her in the crib.”

Major Mohammad said the department has a special hydraulic device that is capable of opening car doors without affecting the vehicle and without hurting the trapped child. “However, the device is less effective on some of the newer models and we are forced to break the glass of the car door to save the child.”

According to Major Mohammad, Bur Dubai tops the list of places where children have been found left in their parents’ cars. “Some 56 of the total 177 cases were in Bur Dubai,” he said. “Other areas where we found such cases were Jebel Ali, Al Ghusais, Al Rifa’a, and Al Barsha.”

Major Mohammad also advised parents to lock their car doors while the vehicle is in motion. “There have been cases where children opened the door of a moving vehicle and flew out, sustaining severe injuries.”

He said the department has also handled cases of children trapped in elevators. “One child had his hand stuck in the elevator door. The department managed to save the child but his hand was mauled. The first thing we did is switch off the electricity; we then opened the doors using the hydraulic device and rushed the child to the hospital. We managed to save him in under 12 minutes.”