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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 14:46 GMT
Dubai dock flood toll rises
Dubai Drydock workers
Many workers are from South Asia and the Philippines
At least 22 workers are now known to have drowned after sea water crashed into one of the world's biggest dry docks in Dubai on Wednesday.

Authorities say a further seven workers at Dubai Drydocks are still missing.

The gate collapsed and sea water rushed in, filling the dock in a few minutes

The accident happened when the dock gates ruptured and a 12-metre-high tidal wave crashed in, submerging several large vessels under repair. The dock was flooded within minutes.

The names of those who died have not yet been released, but it is believed that they were all expatriate workers from India and the Philippines.

"Search operations are still going on but they are now looking for bodies not survivors," said a security official at the scene, adding that paint polluting the water was hampering the divers' recovery work.

Another seven are still in hospital with non-critical injuries.

The BBC's Julia Wheeler in Dubai says dockers want reassurances such an incident can never happen again.

Dock officials say the damage could take months to put right.

'Horrible sight'

The accident occurred at about 0900 local time (0500 GMT) when two panels of a dock gate ruptured during routine maintenance work.

Dubai's deputy police chief, General Nasser al-Sayed Abdul Razzek, said 241 workers were working at the time of the accident.

Many of the painters and steelworkers stood no chance as they were working inside the ships at the time.

Survivors working on the dock floor told how they ran for their lives.

"The gate collapsed and sea water rushed in, filling the dock in a few minutes, drowning many people. It was a horrible sight," one survivor told Reuters news agency.

Police and safety officials are investigating why the panels ruptured.

Diplomats from India, Bangladesh and the Philippines are still trying to establish the number of people from their countries who have died or are injured.

Foreign workers

About 3,500 people work at the state-run Dubai Drydocks, which opened in 1983.

It is one of the largest facilities in the world for ship repairs, and serves customers from more than 40 different companies.

Dubai Drydock
Thousands work in the docks
Measuring nearly 200 hectares (500 acres), the dock is situated in its own private port with direct access to the sea through a 350 metre-wide entrance protected by four kilometres (2.5 miles) of breakwaters.

The company says five vessels - a tanker, a cargo ship, a rig and two barges - were inside dry dock number two at the time of the accident. The damage to the vessels is being assessed.

Authorities have shut down the facility, and barred all journalists who do not work for government media.

Work is continuing as usual in the two other dry docks and the floating dock at the site.

Shipping is coming and going normally at nearby Port Rashid.

The BBC's Julia Wheeler
"An investigation is underway into why two dockgate panels failed"
See also:

05 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: United Arab Emirates
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