Volunteers flock to wadis to help search for missing
May 20, 2019 | 9:37 PM
by Times News Service

Muscat: Search and rescue crews are wearing night vision goggles, using packs of sniffer dogs and coordinating aerial sweeps as part of a massive search operation to locate a missing Asian family swept away in a flooded wadi.

Royal Oman Police, together with members of the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance have been joined by kind-hearted volunteers in the hunt for Sardar Fazal Ahmed’s missing family and other missing persons following a series of flash floods.

Sardar’s six family members, his 28-day-old baby boy, two toddlers as well as his wife and parents, were swept away during flash floods in Wadi Bani Khalid on Saturday.

Dad Sardar managed to drag himself ashore and raise the alarm.

Video: Expat dad whose entire family was swept away in flash flood speaks

Since then, rescue teams have searched a 60km long stretch of the wadi, in their tireless efforts to locate the family.

Similar search and rescue missions are taking place across the country, where a staggering 334mm of rain has fallen in a single 24-hour period.

Rescuers say that they are working tirelessly to locate the Indian family, and all others reported missing across the Sultanate.

A spokesman for Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance said that the winding, unpredictable nature of the wadis is making their job extremely tough. Nevertheless, they have pledged to keep going in the hope of finding the loved ones of many in the country.

A spokesman for the authority told Times of Oman: “The search is on for them, and we hope to find them soon. We already have combed over 60 km in an extensive search operation which continued for three consecutive days.

“The search is taking as long as it is because of the nature of the wadi and its length. Wadi Bani Khalid is deep and winding, which can lead to violent gushes of water. However, our teams are working as hard as possible and we are confident in our abilities.”

On Saturday, Sardar, an Indian expat who works as a pharmacist in Ibra in the Governorate of North Sharqiyah, lost his entire family when they went on a day trip to Wadi Bani Khalid. While Sardar managed to pull himself out of the wadi, his parents, Khan and Shabana, his wife Arshi, daughter Sidra, 4, son Zaid, 2, and new-born infant son Nooh, were all swept away.

While more than 72 hours have passed since PACDA and local officers from the Royal Oman Police began their search, nobody is giving up.

The PACDA spokesman told Times of Oman: “We search through most of the day but the night time is dangerous because of the depth of the wadi and the possibility that the rain might return. Furthermore, the search also stops during the day depending on how heavy the rain is.

“The teams of the authority have been well-trained for this work. We are also assisted by the moving search teams which use K9 dogs, and the water rescue teams who dive underwater to search for remains. We are also coordinating with the North Al Sharqiyah Police Headquarters as well as volunteer teams.

“We do not say no to anyone who wants to help in the search, but the training is different for the volunteer teams, and so it becomes important to protect them as well.”

The Royal Oman Police (ROP) has conducted more than six rescue operations from flooded wadis and vehicles as rain lashed many parts of the Sultanate. Dozens of people were rescued from wadis, houses and vehicles.

An ROP spokesman said: “Police used night vision goggles (NVG) for the first time, which facilitated 75 per cent of the search, rescue, ambulance, patrol and other night operations.”

Four people were rescued and airlifted from Wadi Bani Khalid to Ibra Referral Hospital, and a further six were rescued in Wadi Suroor in the Wilayat of Samail, as well three people who were trapped in Wadi Al Auq.

According to ROP, they were all in a stable condition. One person was rescued by police helicopter after he fell into a wadi in the Seeq area of the Wilayat of Kamil W’al Wafi.

On Saturday, two teenage boys aged 13 and 15 tragically lost their lives after they drowned in a water pool in Jalan Bani Bu Ali.

Wadi Bani Khalid in Southern Sharqiyah recorded the highest amount of rainfall on Saturday, May 18, compared to the rest of the Sultanate with a total amount of 90.6 mm.

In addition, Oman recorded rainfall of 334 mm over the past 24 hours, according to a statement by the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA).

Since Friday, the Governorates of Northern and Southern Sharqiyah have witnessed flash floods and heavy rains as a result of a low pressure system that is expected to end on Wednesday, in addition to scattered rains over the rest of Northern Oman. A statement by the authority added that the highest amounts registered at its monitoring stations were 41.2 mm in Yanqul, 39.4 mm in Wadi Bani Khalid, and 27.4 mm in Nizwa, while the lowest amounts registered were 1mm in Liwa, 1.4 mm in Ibra, and 1.6 mm in Muhadha.

Muscat saw 12.6 mm of rain, while Amerat’s station recorded 9.8 mm of rain, and the station in Sultan Qaboos Port saw 9.4 mm of rainfall.

There are chances of more rain in the coming days. “Partly cloudy to cloudy skies are expected with chances of rain, with occasional thundershowers associated with fresh winds and hail over most governorates,” added the authority.

Tides at sea are expected to be moderate to rough along most of the Sultanate’s coasts with waves ranging from heights of between 1.5 and 2.5 metres. PACA also advised people to take precaution during the rain, advising them to check the state of the sea and to avoid sailing.

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