Local rescue team saves people, vehicles stranded in Kuwait’s deserts

When Mohammed Saif Al-Hajri got stuck in a remote place for an entire day and the battery of his hearing aid ran out before someone rescued him, the idea of forming a voluntary rescue team came to his mind. Along with four other members, Hajri formed the Kuwait Rescue Team (Sabah’s Falcons) in 2014, the first and only such team in Kuwait. From then till today, the team has rescued and helped hundreds of people in all parts of Kuwait.

More volunteers are joining the team, which has become popular. “Kuwaiti youth like to volunteer and help people, so more people are joining our team. We numbered around 60 members within the second year, and this shot up to 350 during three days of June 2016, when we were looking for a missing boy. Everybody wanted to help. We finally found him dead, unfortunately, and informed the police. The volunteers then left, as they had joined for this mission only,” Hajri told Kuwait Times.

Currently, the team consists of 21 members who are available daily. “Some members left as they went to study abroad. Others left after their vehicles got damaged, as rescue operations consume great power from the vehicle and may damage it, especially when pulling heavy vehicles out of the sand,” he explained.

All members are volunteers and they pay everything from their own pockets. “We are glad to help people and receive their appreciation and thanks. But we also need support, as we are not only volunteering our time. We have many expenses, especially when our vehicles get damaged, besides fuel, towing equipment and others. Also, we just opened an office for members to gather, from our own resources,” said Hajri.

“This year, we received our first and only form of support from the Ahl Al Kuwait Foundation. We appreciate it, and hope that companies will support us by at least providing towing equipment, as these quickly wear out. Also, we accept any volunteer who would like to join us, but he has to own a 4×4 vehicle and be ready to fix it if it gets damaged,” he said.
The team receives between 15 to 20 calls for help daily. “Some people call us directly asking for help, but presently, about 90 percent of the calls come from the interior ministry. We cooperate with the operations center that includes police, fire department and medical emergency workers. Sometimes the police also support us with helicopters – depending on the case,” Hajri said.

Ahmad Saleh, Deputy Team Leader, spoke about some rescue operations. “In Ramadan, we received a call from a family asking for help to find their elderly father who got stuck in mud in the desert. The old man didn’t have a smartphone and couldn’t send his location, but from his description, we succeeded in finding him after two hours, and we had iftar with him,” he smiled.

“A few months back, we rescued two Western students who got lost in the Subbiya desert. It was late after midnight, but we found them after a few hours. Also, another elderly man got lost near Boubyan and he was diabetic, but we found him after more than three hours and saved him,” noted Saleh.

The team provides a service that is unique not only in Kuwait, but in the wider Gulf region. “We have a sign language interpreter for the deaf and dumb. They can contact us through video calls. We provide this service to other GCC countries as well, as we cooperate with some NGOs there,” Hajri said.

The Kuwait Rescue Team has participated in various local and international activities, and has a GCC rescue license. “Our team played an awareness role during our participation in the folk festival held at heritage village near the border. We gave advice to visitors, and at the same time we were ready to rescue any vehicle stuck in the sand,” he added.
Member Mohammed Al-Rabia said the work of the volunteers has had some negative effects. “One of the members who was working in the army was fired from his job due to repeatedly leaving work to rescue people. Also, some members are married and have disabled children or family members, which consumes their time, yet they still take out time to help people calling our team,” he said.

The team never fails to respond to calls. “We have even pulled out heavy vehicles of the fire department or the police. But not all calls for help are serious. Some people call us to help them fix their cars or change flat tires. We do it for women, but men inside city limits should be able to change their flat tires. Once I responded to a call from a healthy young man who had a flat tire, but he didn’t know how to change it. I didn’t change the tire, but instead I taught him how to do it. He thanked me profusely,” concluded Hajri.

Mobile number of the deaf and dumb interpreter: 98808767
The team’s account on Instagram: Kuwait.rescue.team
Twitter: Kwrescueteam
Snapchat: rescue.team

By Nawara Fattahova