A screengrab of the viral video showing Hazem Sewid saving the eight-year-old boy. Image Credit: S

Dubai: A heroic act carried out in response to desperate cries for help in the flood waters of a Dubai tunnel would have made it the most gratifying birthday for an Egyptian banker after he saved three precious lives last Tuesday.

But for Hazem Sewid, who turned 46 on the day, that was purely incidental. Or, should we say, coincidental? Just as the video of the dramatic rescue, taken by an onlooker in the area, made Sewid an overnight social media sensation.

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“It was the will of Allah that made me leave the relative safety of my car and swim to the sinking car in the tunnel and pull out an eight-year-old boy and his parents in the nick of time,” Sewid told Gulf News.

Recounting the sequence of events on that fateful day, when the UAE received its highest rainfall in 75 years, Sewid, who works as the head of risk operations at the Egyptian bank Banque Misr, said he was returning home from work when the incident occurred.

“I was to work from home that day but ended up going to the office as I had left my laptop behind. When I was driving back home in the evening, the weather situation was not good. I was on Al Badia Street heading towards my apartment building on Sheikh Zayed Road when I approached the tunnel. I stopped short at the entrance of the underpass as it was full of water, and pulled up on the side of the street. I called my wife at home and told her I could be late, even as I was contemplating an alternative route after turning the car back.”

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By the time the mother was being rescued, another stranger had swum to the car to help. Image Credit: Supplied.

It was at that point that another car drove past him and into the tunnel. As Sewid watched in horror, the car floated for a bit and began to sink. “I could then hear a little boy’s cry for help from the car’s back seat through a slightly ajar window. Before I knew it, I kicked off my shoes, removed my jacket and shirt and rushed towards the tunnel. The water was so deep that I had to swim to the sinking car,” he recalled.

What happened next, as the viral video shows, was nothing short of a miracle. Sewid lost no time in pulling the young boy out of the back seat window and plonked him on the vehicle top as he could not swim. The boy’s mother, also a non-swimmer, was the next target as she was also rescued and perched on the car.

“By then, two others – a man and a woman – had also swum there to help with the rescue. Neither the door nor the window at the driver’s seat, where the father was seated, would open as the car was now full of water. We managed to open the door from outside and thankfully pulled him out. The trio were quickly moved out of the tunnel, even as their car began to disappear in the flood waters.”

Sewid said he can never forget the sight of the boy, crying for help with the flood waters reaching his neck and threatening to enter his mouth.

“The family – they were of Indian origin - was terribly shaken. I took them into my car and asked them where they lived, but they could barely speak. When they eventually managed to tell me, I dropped them off to their building, which also happened to be on Sheikh Zayed Road,” said Sewid.

When he reached his own apartment a few blocks away and rang the doorbell, his family was shocked to see him – soaking wet, with shoes and jacket in hand.

Hazem Sewid turned 46 on Tuesday, April 16, when the UAE witnessed one of its worst storms in history. Image Credit: Supplied

As he calmed them down and narrated the whole story, their shock gave way to immense pride.

Sewid’s wife Samira said, “The initial shock apart, I am hardly surprised that he did what he did. He is someone who will not hesitate to help anyone in need. As a mum with two children, I find it very heartening that he saved a young child’s life. I feel blessed and thankful.”

The couple’s two girls, both students of Gems Founders School in Al Barsha, also expressed their gratitude and pride.

Aya, a Year 11 student of the school, said, “We were so scared about Dad as he was late. But we were relieved to see him and hear about how he had risked his own life to save three others. Being human is all about helping each other – it’s something we have learnt both at home and in our school.”

Her sister Sarah, a Year 8 student in the same school, echoed her words. “He risked his life, but I am so glad it all worked out and everything ended well. It makes us all very proud.”

Sewid said he had no idea who originally shot the video of the rescue. “When I came to work the next day and was talking about my experience, a friend of mine who had chanced upon the video on social media showed it to me,” he said.

The Indian family whom he had rescued were also complete strangers. “But at the end of the day, we’re all one and it’s about humanity,” he added.

Honour for Sewid

GEMS Founders School - Al Barsha Principal Matthew Burfield presents Hazem Sewid with a Jewels of Kindness Achievement - a rare accolade - for his heroic rescue. Image Credit: Supplied

Sewid's heroic act has earned him much recognition from the community as well. Among those who have honoured him are his bank and his children's school, he added.

"There's no doubt that without his bravery, the happy end for this family could have been very different. His courage and quick thinking encapsulate everything that we as a school stand for and teach our students and we are very proud that he and his wife, and two children, are members of the GFS community," said GEMS Founders School - Al Barsha Principal Matthew Burfield.