Sharjah: From a special Operations Room to drones and even safety tubes that can be deployed remotely, the Sharjah Marine Rescue Unit is trained to handle emergencies under all circumstances.
Furnishing details of the department’s readiness to respond to distress calls, Lieutenant Abdullah Al Ya’ahi, the Director of the Marine Rescue Section at Sharjah Civil Defence, told Gulf News that the department uses a special drone to locate and rescue people from waters. The drone is fitted with cameras that can enlarge original images upto 38 times. It is also equipped with a thermal sensor to survey beaches and features safety tubes to rescue drowning people. The tubes can be deployed remotely. The department has also acquired a device to map out a topographical profile of the seabed, so as to reduce human resources such as divers during search operations, to save time.
Lt Al Ya’ahi said the maritime rescue plan for summer includes intense patrolling of the beaches at Al Khan and Hamriyah on a daily basis. The department also plans to recruit female lifeguards in the future.
One of the modern devices used is the full-face mask that enables rescue staff to interact with the divers through wireless communication.
Sharjah Marine Rescue Unit carried out 38 rescue missions at sea during 2021 and ten missions since the beginning of 2022 and until June 15. The cases that the rescue unit handles are varied, including rescuing people from drowning, jet ski accidents, fire on vessels and collisions involving vessels.
Lt Al Ya’ahi added that Sharjah Civil Defence’s rescue services are offered for free. “We are always here to help you,” he said, adding: “I am very proud of them [the rescuers]. They work hard and undergo rigorous training. It is a tough job and they are the best.”
He further said: “We work with teams from all over the world, sharing our experience and skills. The rescuers are also trained to deal with chemical spills and water-based operations. We have a full scuba-diving team too.”
He cited lack of awareness as the main reason that often leads to tragic accidents.
Commenting on the readiness of his team members, he said: “If we direct the Air Wing to attend to a crisis situation, we find them at the spot even before the arrival of the land rescue unit!”
Lt Al Ya’ahi cited some interesting incidents handled by the response teams — at times even hilarious. He recalled the Operations Room once receiving a call from a woman, saying that a human skeleton was found floating in Khaled Lake. The rescue team immediately responded to the call and the divers went four meters deep into the lake water. It turned out to be a bicycle!
Then again, the Operations Room once received a call about “a whale entering Al Qasba”. When responders reached the spot, it turned out to be a broken water pipe!
In another incident in Al Khan, near the aquarium, a woman was watching the sunset from the breakwaters. As she was about to leave, her bag slipped into the sea water. Divers were soon moved to the site and the bag was retrieved from a depth of eight meters undersea.
The department often responds to calls from community members after having lost their belongings — including branded watches, sunglasses and gold rings — at sea. The divers have promptly responded to all those calls and helped recover the lost items.
Some rescue operations can at times get tricky. Once a car fell into the waters off Mamzar. The recovery process took 45 minutes.
In another incident, a person parked his car on the beach and went for a long walk, without having properly secured the vehicle with its hand brake. The car slipped into the sea. Responders soon rushed to the spot upon receiving an emergency call and managed to pull the vehicle out of the waters, but not before a four-hour toil!
Drowning at sea
Lt Al Ya’ahi pointed out that quite often, bad weather and unpredictable undersea topography also pose serious challenges to rescuers.
Narrating a rather tragic incident, Lt Al Ya’ahi recalled that once, during unstable weather condition, a mother was at the beach with her two children. She was warned by the rescue team to take her children out of the beach as the weather was unstable and the sea was rough. However, she failed to hear the warning. As high waves started lashing the shores, she manage to pull one of her children out of harm’s way, but she along with the other child perished.
Reminding community members and beachgoers about such dangers, Lt Al Ya’ahi urged them to always follow the safety instructions and pay heed to the warnings issued by the marine rescue teams from time to time.