57 vehicles involved in two accidents, traffic halted for 3 hours
At least 14 people were injured, one seriously, when 57 vehicles, including a police car, were involved in two pile-ups on either side of the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain Highway at Abu Samra on Thursday morning due to heavy fog — a grim reminder of the largest pile-up of 200 vehicles in the country at Gantoot in March 2008.
A top Abu Dhabi Police officer attributed the accidents to low visibility because of the thick fog which enveloped the outskirts of the Capital overnight. At least 39 cars crashed into one another in the Al Ain direction, while 18 other vehicles were involved in a pile-up in the same stretch in the opposite direction.
The accidents, which happened around 7.15am, brought traffic to a standstill. Vehicles were directed to alternative routes from Al Yahar bridge to the exit route and from Rammah Bridge to the exit route on to the Trucks Road.
According to eyewitnesses, traffic in the entire stretch of the highway between Al Sa’ad and Al Ramah was blocked because of the accidents. However, by 10.30am, the highway was cleared, thanks to the swift operation of the police and civil defence.
Major Salah Al Himiari, head of the Al Ain Traffic and Patrols Section, said traffic patrols and ambulances of the Emergency and Safety Department as well as fire engines and vehicles of the civil defence rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to Al Ain (Jimi) and Al Tawam hospitals and removed the vehicles.
“Preliminary investigations showed that the accidents took place due to low visibility, drivers not leaving sufficient and safe distance from the vehicles ahead and not reducing speed despite the difficult weather conditions,” he said.
“The directorate, through joint coordination as part of the emergency plan, shifted all injured to hospitals for treatment,” he said, noting that the personnel had also cleared the road by towing away the damaged vehicles and closing the traffic in both directions of the highway.
The police diverted vehicles to alternative roads to prevent other accidents.
A live broadcast about the situation on the site, the condition of the road and traffic flow was done through different radio stations.
Major Himiari asked motorists to take extra precautions during fog by abiding by traffic rules, pulling over to the right shoulder of the road and switching off hazard lights in case visibility is nil.
When visit the injured at the two hospitals, the team was denied entry by the security personnel. The two hospitals also refused to release any information to the media directly. The hospital managements said all reports will be released by the Police Department.
Some eyewitnesses said the number of vehicles involved in the pile-up at 7.15am could be around 100 as a long stretch of the highway was blocked with no traffic flow for over three hours. “It was a huge pile-up. I could see a long line of vehicles tied to each other. Some of them were badly damaged. Two of the vehicles in the accident were burning,” said Abdullah Siddique Al Balushi, a resident of Al Wathba.
He also said it was too foggy with extremely low visibility. “You could not see anything in front even for 50 metres. Normally, when there is low visibility, motorists tend to drive very slowly, and that is why there were no fatalities even though so many vehicles were involved,” he added.
Another area resident from Al Ramah said it was one of the biggest road accidents he could ever recall. “Thank God there were not many casualties, and hope those injured are not in critical condition. I have not seen so many cars piled up in a road accident in my life,” said Abdul Rahman from Salamat neighbourhood in Al Ain.
The accident also attracted a large number of onlookers from the nearby residential and industrial areas along the highway. However, they were dispersed by the police.
Abdul Karim, a resident of nearby Al Khazna, said he saw several ambulances, police and traffic patrols and many senior officers clearing the highway. He said the accident which happened early in the morning was well controlled and managed by the Police Department and Civil Defence personnel.
“Soon we saw traffic and police patrols reaching the spot with the rescue teams and equipment. There were several big mobile hospitals to provide on-the-spot treatment to the injured. Hats off to the rescue team for the swift operation. They were really good,” he added.
Another eyewitness, Saeed Al Marzouqi, said it was chaotic with the traffic on the entire highway being at a standstill for several hours.
“Most of the motorists were using farm access roads to avoid the traffic jam and continue their journey. All farm access roads were flooded with vehicles on either side,” he added.