Dubai: When he took his family on a fishing cruise, Lebanese expat Imad Abdallah never imagined their boat would sink and they would end up swimming in the sea for 45 minutes and eventually be miraculously rescued by the Dubai police.
The near-drowning experience reminded him of scenes from the movie Titanic. “But luckily none of us drowned like the hero. It was a miracle,” he told Gulf News while recounting the horror of the high seas.
The incident happened late on Saturday evening and what saved them was a phone that worked even after being in water for more than 20 minutes, and the quick action of the Dubai Police Ports Police Station Marine Rescue Team.
Abdallah, catering manager in Dubai, said he hired a fishing boat to go deep sea fishing after his father-in-law came from Lebanon for a visit.
“He was not well and his treatment had just ended two weeks ago. Fishing was his hobby. So I wanted to please him.
Abdallah brought his two teenage daughters, his wife’s brother-in-law and also a friend, and his father-in-law for the trip.
Water seeps into
It was after more than an hour of travel that they first noticed water seeping into the boat, Abdallah said.
“We were in the open sea, about 3 km from the Atlantis hotel.”
Abadalla claimed that he was the one who first alerted the captain of the boat and his assistant. “My friend also spotted a lot of water inside the boat.”
Before they knew it, the boat began to sink. However, Abdallah managed to make the SOS call to Dubai Police on 999.
“I could not give the exact location. I just said about 3km from Atlantis and by then we all slid into the sea,” he said.
These were the darkest times of his life for Abdallah who had to calm everyone down in a panic.
“Fortunately, we all knew how to swim. But, it was still scary. We were in the middle of the sea and it was dark. We couldn’t see anything. My relative was very scared and he kept saying that I was going to die. My stepfather is 65 years old. My children are only 14 and 16 years old. I had to give them courage and calm them down.
Flashing phone to the rescue
He said a miracle happened when he noticed his phone flashing in his pocket. “I had lost the other phone and my wallet. Only that phone was left for me. I picked it up. It was the police calling back to ask for the exact location. I saw a helicopter. C It was indeed a miracle. The phone was in the water for almost half an hour. It only had 9% battery. I still managed to talk to them.
He said the rescue officer asked him to use his phone’s flashlight to help them find the family.
“I turned on the flash and he saw me there. Then they all came.
He said two helicopters, two Dubai Police boats and two Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services boats were involved in the operation.
Police respond within four minutes
Ports Police Station Director Dr Colonel Hasan Al Suwaidi told Gulf News that the command room received an SOS call on Saturday about a sinking fishing boat a few miles off the coast of Dubai.
“Within four minutes, maritime rescue teams were dispatched to sea to search for a group of eight people in a boat. We found them separated on the high seas after the boat sank,” Colonel Al Suwaidi said.
Rescue police boats came to the rescue and scanned the sea for missing members of the group before rescuing them.
Dubai police provided first aid to the group as one of them suffered minor injuries and the others were exhausted and terrified.
“All of us, including the crew, were rescued and pulled into the boats and given first aid. My stepfather also received CPR. My parent was in a bad state. We were all taken to hospital. My daughters and I came home later that night while my stepfather got his Sunday off. My relative got his leave today (Tuesday),” Abdallah said.
Abdallah and his wife Maya said they wanted to thank the authorities for the speedy rescue operation and also alert others to the safety measures they should take to avoid such traumatic experiences.
“I want people to read the story of the heroes who survived swimming and fighting until the last minute and convey a huge thank you to all authorities,” Maya said.
“It’s a lesson for all. Anyone who wants to rent a boat should ensure that it is equipped with all safety measures and personnel trained in emergencies and of course, they should ask if the boat is well maintained “, she said.
It is important to follow safety procedures and wear life jackets while sailing, Col Al Suwaidi added.
Lt. Col. Ali Al Naqbi, director of the marine rescue service at the Ports Police Station, told Gulf News that people should check the boat’s body, engine and equipment before sailing to avoid tragedies.
“It’s a basic procedure to check the boat before going to sea,” he said.
Lt. Col. Al Naqbi urged owners of boats, ships and yachts to take advantage of the ‘Sail Safely’ service through the Dubai Police smart app.
“Sail Safely” service via Dubai Police app tracks sea journeys, alerts users to delays on a sea voyage, identifies hazards, sends distress messages directly to Dubai Police and assists in rapid emergency responses.”
Abdallah said it was essential to ensure that a life jacket was available for every passenger. “The police told me that we should all have worn life jackets. We did not know. The crew didn’t tell us and they weren’t trained to handle an emergency.