'22 killed in Al Ain road accident'
AL AIN, Feb 04, 2013 (Menafn - Khaleej Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Twenty-two workers died on their way to work on Monday when a truck's brakes failed and crashed into their bus, according to initial reports.
The accident, which occurred in Al Ain's Al Rawdha area about 7.50am, left the 24 remaining workers with critical injuries.
Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols Directorate Director Brigadier Hussein Ahmed Al Harthi said initial investigations suggested a truck loaded with crushed concrete lost control due to brake failure and rammed into the bus, which was carrying Asian workers, on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Truck Road.
"It was a terrible accident that killed 22 and injured 24 workers. All the victims were Asians working for a private company and were heading for work in Al Rawdha. The initial and on-the-spot investigations suggest the accident was caused by the truck that had lost the control because of brake failure and crashed into the bus." He said the surviving workers sustained medium to severe injuries and were airlifted to Al Ain hospitals.
The accident, one of the biggest in the country's history, happened on a treacherous stretch of road which has witnessed five other fatal accidents since October last year.
Shaukat Qaumi, who lives in a nearby labour accommodation and saw the fatal accident happen, said the bus was in Al Rawdha area when the truck crashed into it.
"The accident happened when the bus was about to turn... and (the) truck (coming) from the opposite direction rammed and turned over it. The bus was smashed to the ground with the truck and concrete over it." He said he saw the truck first lose control before it swerved and then crashed into the bus. "The bus was buried under the truck."
Other eyewitnesses said it took several hours for rescue workers to remove the dead and injured from the smashed bus.
One bystander, who identified himself only as M.M., said technicians used heavy machinery to cut the bus open and remove the dead and injured from the bloody scene.
"Officials and workers from almost all government departments, including doctors, nurses and safety officers and technicians from the Armed Forces were there. I could see helicopters hovering and landing to provide support and lift the injured."
Another eyewitness Mustafa, a Pakistani truck driver, said he reached the spot before the rescue operation to remove the damaged vehicles was underway. Officials asked him for help to pull the truck with his vehicle, he said.
"I towed the damaged truck with my vehicle and tried my best to pull it, but it was too heavy with the cargo and I had to give up. Finally cranes and other heavy machines were brought to remove the two damaged vehicles."
Al Harthi said members of all rescue and safety teams from all government agencies were immediately moved to the accident scene.
"Rescuing of the injured and rushing them to hospital was the priority. We also had a field hospital at the scene to provide immediate treatment to the injured before they were shifted to hospitals either by air or land. They were shifted to Al Tawam Hospital and Al Ain Hospital."
The entire operation was supervised by Brigadier Al Harthi, External Highways and Roads Director Colonel Hamad Nasser Al Balushi and Traffic Engineering and Road Safety Director Colonel Khalifa Mohammed Al Khaili.
Al Harthi warned contracting companies against poor maintenance of their vehicles -- particularly of brakes -- and hiring untrained drivers who are a public safety risk. "All these drivers should be given proper safety training before taking vehicles out on the road," he said.
Shortly after the accident, there were different reports about the number of casualties, with some putting the death toll as high as 40.
Earlier reports suggested among the fatalities were 22 Bangladeshis, 18 Indians, four Pakistanis and four Egyptians. However, when contacted representatives from the Embassies concerned were not able to give the number of casualties among their citizens in the accident.
Officials at both Indian and Pakistani diplomatic missions were still gathering information about the casualties. The Bangladesh Embassy Consul for Labour Affairs Latiful Haq Kazi said he was on his way to Al Ain to ascertain the details about casualties among Bangladeshi workers.
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