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Investigation into Palm accident underway

Worker who was swept away has not yet been found

Nakheel has clarified that three, and not four workers, were swept off by the wave surge on 11th January from Palm Jebel Ali. Two managed to scramble back to safety, but the third is still missing and his body has not yet been found.

The developer did not reveal the name of the worker nor the company he worked for, saying only that he was an Indian national and that he worked for a Sharjah contracting firm that was hired by main contractor Jan de Nul.

Spokespersons accompanying a press tour of three Nakheel reclamation projects said no one has been taken into custody in relation to the incident, but that an investigation is on. They said that the workers were, “beyond the breakwater at the reclamation level” and may have been tempted by curiosity to stand too close to the shore when the wave struck.

“The effectiveness demonstrated by the breakwater guaranteed the safety of the properties that have been and are being built, as well as those construction workers working on the crown and the trunk,” said Sultan bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Nakheel, in a statement issued on the day of the incident. “Safety is paramount for us, and we have been conscientious throughout the development of the three Palm projects, as well as The World. Each development’s breakwater has always been part of the first stage of the reclamation process, as it provides the initial safety to the boats working in the area and then later, as demonstrated, for the workers and in the future for the property owners, be they private or commercial.”

On 11th January, a combination of a 30-knot north by northwesterly Al Shamal and spring tides caused a near shore wave height of 2.5 m. This resulted in a water level that was higher by 1.5 m above mean sea level. Khalid Mohammed Al Zahid, head of the Coastal Management Section of Dubai Municipality, said: “Statistically, this wave condition is considered extreme, but can occur several times per year. Although the coincidence of these extreme events is unusual, it is not rare and the municipality has design specifications for coastal structures that accommodate even more extreme conditions.”

The breakwaters were intact, weighed down by rocks that, on average, weigh 6-10 tonnes each. Palm Jebel Ali is some 7.5km x 7.5km and has a 15 km long stretch of breakwater forming the crescent. It is some 4 m high and is not yet fully finished. The island is 40% reclaimed and will be ready by 2007.

Some 40 journalists were taken in two boats around the breakwaters of the three projects. “We felt that it was very important for the press to see first hand for themselves how well the breakwater had withstood the Al Shamal onslaught. For many of them it was an opportunity to see that the rumours about the villas having been damaged by the Shamal where untrue,” said bin Sulayem.

During the design process for the coastline developments, Nakheel claims to have carried out in-depth studies on wave movements during the past 40 years and concluded that 2.6 m was the maximum tide height. Nakheel developed The Palm’s breakwater to measure 4 m with a slight slope to prevent any high tide effects.

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