Parental neglect blamed for children’s deaths in high-rise falls

Officials call for ‘radical solutions’ to prevent falls from Sharjah buildings

Kids at the balcony at their flats in Sharjah.

Sharjah: Parental negligence, furniture on balconies and windows left open have been blamed for high-rise deaths involving children, officials said on Wednesday.

Top officials in Sharjah, including heads of various government departments discussed ways to find “radical solutions” to end the tragic accidents that have claimed several children’s lives in falls.

A five-year-old American girl died instantly after falling from the 19th floor of a Sharjah building on August 26. She was left alone in the apartment and had climbed on furniture placed in the balcony.

Between 2012 and 2015, Sharjah Police said 18 children fell to their deaths from residential towers. Six died in 2016, and three in 2017 according to media reports.

Thabit Al Turaifi, Director-General of Sharjah City Municipality, presided over the meeting, in which officials called for a public-private partnership to deal with the problem and prevent more such tragedies.

“We are keen to find radical solutions to the problem of accidents involving children in high-rise buildings. This can be done in coordination with government agencies, to safeguard the community, which is one of our priorities,” Al Turaifi said.

The meeting was also attended by Afaf Al Merri; chairperson of Sharjah Social Services Department; Brigadier General Mohammad Rashid Bayat, Director General of Police Operations at Sharjah Police; Colonel Sami Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Civil Defence; Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Government Media Bureau; Hassan Yaqoub Al Mansouri, Secretary General of Sharjah Media Council; and Khalid Mohammed Al Ali, Secretary General of Sharjah Urban Planning Council, among others.

Community awareness needed

In a presentation, negligence by parents and keeping furniture and other objects on balconies and near windows, and leaving windows open were highlighted as the main reasons for children falling.

To curb these accidents, the Sharjah government introduced preventive measures in 2017 and amended the technical requirements for residential windows and balconies. The changes were made mandatory for landlords and contractors.

Officials said the Sharjah Municipality also conducted a massive awareness campaign titled ‘Safety of Our Children is Our Responsibility’ that ran for nine months from June 1, 2017 to March 1, 2018 in Arabic, English and Urdu. It aimed for a target of zero accidents and produced significant results, bringing fatalities down to just one this year, so far.

Allay underscored the importance of community awareness and pointed out that safeguarding children’s lives is not just an individual responsibility but that of the community.

Col Al Naqbi cautioned families against leaving children alone on balconies and near windows, especially in high-rise apartments. Homes should be child-proofed, he said.

Mandatory safety measures

■  Raise the height of windows and balconies to 1.2 metres, instead of 1 metre
■  Install safety locks to prevent windows from opening more than 5 to 10cm wide.
■  Use railings that children cannot climb over.
■  Put up a translucent acrylic barrier on balcony railings (requires a municipality permit)

Timeline of Sharjah high-rise deaths

August 26, 2018: Five-year-old American girl died instantly after falling from 19th floor of a Sharjah building.

March 26, 2017: Three-year-old Saudi girl fell to her death from 11th floor of a building on Jamal Abdul Nasser Street.

March 20, 2017:  16-year-old Indian girl killed after falling from the seventh floor balcony in Jamal Abdul Nasser street in Sharjah.

January 22, 2017:  12-year-old Pakistani boy died after falling from the eighth floor in Al Taawun area in Sharjah.

December 30, 2016: 12-year-old Filipino boy killed in fall from the 14th-floor balcony of his apartment in Al Nahda.

November 28, 2016: Two-and-a-half-year-old Eritrean child fell to death from the fourth floor of a building in Al Qasimia area.

June 13, 2016: Four-year old Algerian boy died after fall from 18th floor of a building in Al Buhairah area.

May 03, 2016: Four-year-old Sudanese girl died instantly after falling from ninth floor of a building in Al Majaz area.

May 01, 2016: Two-year-old Pakistani girl died on the spot after falling from seventh floor in Al Qasimiya area.

February 24, 2016: 15-month-old Omani girl killed after fall from a sixth-floor apartment balcony in Moeilah area.

February 03, 2016: Four-year-old Syrian girl fell out of the window of an eighth floor apartment in Al Taawun area.

November 15, 2015: 15-year-old Indian girl dies after fall from 14th floor balcony of a residential building in Al Nahda.

October 25, 2015: Five-year-old girl killed after falling out of window of her 15th floor apartment in Al Taawun area.

October 07, 2015: 11-year-old British national of Yemeni origin died after he fell from sixth floor of Al Jawaher building in Al Majaz.

June 14, 2015: Two-year-old African girl fell to her death from a high-rise apartment in Al Taawun area.

March 09, 2015: Four-year-old Egyptian boy died instantly after falling from window of 19th floor apartment in Al Nahda.

March 03, 2015: 12-year-old Indian girl killed after falling from her third-floor apartment in a building behind Al Zahra Hospital.

February 22, 2015: Seven-year-old boy died after falling eight floors from a balcony of his building, while trying to feed pigeons.

November 27, 2014: 19-month-old Pakistani girl killed after falling from a second-floor apartment balcony in Sharjah.

November 04, 2014: Five-year-old boy fell to his death from the window of his 12th floor apartment in Sharjah.

October 28, 2014: Five-year-old boy fell to death from a ninth-floor balcony, after he slipped from the chair he had climbed on, in Greek Towers, Sharjah.

October 20, 2014: 12-year-old Indian girl fell to death from the window of a building in Al Qasimiya area.

October 16, 2014: Four-year-old Indian girl fell to her death from a high-rise apartment in Al Naba’a area.

August 15, 2014: Indian teenager fell from the third floor of an apartment building in Al Butaina area.

March 17, 2014: Four-year-old boy fell to his death from sixth floor apartment in Sharjah.

Compiled by Gulf News Archives


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