Unattended child, 15th-floor, Dubai high-rise...

‘Balcony falls’ claim lives of 20 children over 3 years

Shocking new images taken by a resident of Dubai’s Skycourts Towers show a young child clamber up on a 15th floor balcony ledge of one of the buildings in the complex.

A child, who appears to be not more than five-years-old, is seen throwing a toy over the balcony ledge, before pulling himself up to hang on the edge.

Jyothi Ferrao, a Skycourts resident, who posted this image on Facebook, said in her post: “This is not the first time. We complained about this issue to security many times, but of no use.

“These kids are always seen in balcony standing on a tricycle or any other wheeled toys or throwing toys, which is of concern.

“How can parents leave kids unattended in balconies after so many incidents taking place around us? This picture is to show all neighbours what’s happening around in Skycourts and how careless they parents are.”

This latest incident once again highlights the growing concern over the alarming number of high-rise falls that has claimed the lives of nearly 20 children over the past three years, according to statistics revealed by respective authorities across the UAE.

Currently, a 24-month-old Emirati girl is in critical condition in Fujairah General Hospital after falling from the balcony of a second-floor apartment last week.

Sharjah reported two such deaths earlier this month, one that saw a four-year-old Egyptian boy who fell from the balcony of a 19th floor residential apartment in Al Nahda; this incident happened days after a 11-year-old Indian girl died after falling from a balcony in Al Nebaa.

Earlier, on February 22, a young boy fell to his death from the eighth floor of a residential building after reportedly leaning out to feed birds.

A study conducted by Sharjah Police earlier this month revealed 14 children died in the emirate alone since 2013 after falling from their high-rise apartments, three in 2013, seven in 2014 and three since the beginning of this year.

On January 1, a five-year-old girl fell to her death from a third floor apartment in International City Dubai after her mother left her alone on New Year’s Eve to go to a party with a boyfriend.

The African national was charged with negligence by the authorities.

Meanwhile, last year saw a Syrian girl, nine, who died after falling from the eighth floor of a building in Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi, the same month a boy suffered a fractured skull after falling from the balcony of his home in Ajman.

Who is to blame?


Omar Ud Deen, a resident of Tower D in Skycourts, said the responsibility ultimately lies with the parents.

The father of two children said: “It is the parents’ responsibility of keeping their child safe, period. It is a no-brainer, irrespective of how you approach it.

“I am aware of the incident that occurred in our complex, and had I seen this happen, I would have first yelled across to the child to step away and immediately alerted security to take action.”

He added: “We don’t know if the child here was left unattended, the parents were in the other room or there was a maid in the house watching over him.

“Irrespective of the scenario, parents must ensure the balcony doors and windows are locked at all times.

“Living on the tenth floor with two children, I am well aware of the precautions we had to take to ensure the children never once ventured anywhere onto the balcony without adult supervision.”

Indu Parekh, an Al Nahda, Sharjah resident stated: “As a mother of two, it makes me want to cry in despair of the horrific incidents we have experienced in this neighbourhood this year alone.

“Three children have died, deaths that could have easily been avoided had parents/guardians been more vigilant with safety.

“When my husband and I moved into our 17th floor apartment with two young ones, two and five, the very first job was to child-proof our home by installing locks on windows and the balconies. A Dh500 investment is worth the price, if it means it could save your child’s life.”

Andrew Dalton, a Dubai Marina resident, said parents must be held accountable for their actions, “It is the only way they will get serious about child safety. It may sound harsh, but at the expense of saving lives, it is exactly what we need.”

What the law states

In a study by Sharjah Police, following a spike in the number of fatal accidents involving children’s fall from apartments in the emirate, the authority has blamed defective building structures and negligence by parents for such mishaps.

Calling for urgent measures to tackle the problem, the police has also suggested an intensified educational and awareness campaign targeting families; it has also proposed issuing instructions handbooks in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, English and other languages to advise families living in higher floors on measures to protect their children.

Colonel Sultan Abdullah fiction Director of Media and Public Relations, Sharjah Police said in a statement: “There is also an urgent need for new legislation forcing landlords to improve safety at their buildings by altering the structure of windows and balconies.

“Landlords must put suitable locks on windows to prevent children from sliding out and install metal nets around the balconies to ensure protection for kids playing there.”

He added: “In this respect, the planning department should introduce definite specifications for all apartments and ensure landlords will comply with them.”

According to the Dubai Municipality building code, a window opening in the emirate must not be wider than 10-15cm, and a balcony’s railing must not be lower than 120cm. Landlords who own residential buildings are required to install safety measures if it does not comply.

The Department of Planning and Survey has recommended a legislation in Sharjah that require owners of buildings to install locks on windows, with a maximum four-inch opening, to prevent children from sliding out.

 

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