Dubai submerged in floods as UAE gets over a year’s worth of rain in hours

Dubai submerged in floods as UAE gets over a year’s worth of rain in hours

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142mm (5.59 inches) of rain had soaked Dubai over 24 hours.

Heavy thunderstorms have lashed the United Arab Emirates (UAE), dumping more than a year and a half’s rain on the desert city-state of Dubai in just a few hours and flooding major highways and its international airport.

The rains began late on Monday, soaking the sands and roads of Dubai with some 20mm (0.79 inches) of rain, according to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport. The storms intensified at about 9am (05:00 GMT) on Tuesday and continued throughout the day, dumping more rain and hail onto the overwhelmed city.

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142mm (5.59 inches) had soaked Dubai. An average year sees 94.7mm (3.73 inches) of rain at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel and a hub for the long-haul carrier Emirates.

At the airport, pools of water lapped on taxiways as aircraft landed. The airport ended up halting arrivals on Tuesday night and passengers struggled to reach terminals through the floodwater covering surrounding roads.

Dubai International Airport acknowledged on Wednesday morning that the flooding had left “limited transportation options” and affected flights as aircraft crews could not reach the airfield.

Emirates said it was suspending check-in for passengers from Dubai International from 8am until midnight on Wednesday because of operational challenges resulting from the incessant rain.

“Recovery will take some time,” the airport said on the social platform X. “We thank you for your patience and understanding while we work through these challenges.”

Dubai Flooded After UAE Receives Year’s Worth of Rain in Hours
A general view of floods caused by heavy rains, with the Burj Khalifa tower visible in the background, in Dubai, [Abdelhadi Ramahi/Reuters]

Police and emergency personnel drove slowly through the flooded streets of Dubai, their emergency lights shining across the darkened roads. Lightning flashed across the sky, occasionally touching the tip of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The city’s driverless Metro network also saw disruptions and flooding.

Fujairah saw the heaviest rainfall

Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, largely shut before the storm and government employees were mostly working remotely. Many other workers also stayed at home, although some ventured out, with the unfortunate finding themselves stranded in deeper-than-expected water after the water stalled their vehicles’ engines.

Authorities sent tanker trucks out into the streets and highways to pump away the water, but some homes were also inundated forcing residents to bail them out.

The country did not offer any information on the overall damage. In Ras al-Khaimah, the country’s northernmost emirate, police said one 70-year-old man died when his vehicle was swept away by floodwater.

Fujairah, an emirate on the UAE’s eastern coast, saw the heaviest rainfall on Tuesday with 145mm (5.7 inches) falling there.

Authorities cancelled school and the government instituted remote work again for Wednesday.

A lightning flashes through the sky during a heavy rainfall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 16 April 2024. A severe wave of thunderstorms with heavy rainfall is hitting most UAE's cities especially in Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain where the Asian Champions League semi final first leg match between UAE's Al-Ain Club and Al-Hilal from Saudi Arabia has been postponed.
Lightning flashes through the sky during heavy rainfall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates [EPA]

Rain is unusual in the UAE, an arid, Arabian Peninsula nation, but it does occur periodically during the cooler winter months. Many roads and other areas lack drainage given the lack of regular rainfall, causing flooding.

Rain also fell in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In neighbouring Oman, a sultanate that rests on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, the country’s National Committee for Emergency Management said at least 18 people had been killed in heavy rains over the past few days. Among the dead were 10 schoolchildren who were swept away in a vehicle with an adult.

Rulers from across the region sent their condolences.

An SUV passes through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
An SUV passes through floodwaters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates [Jon Gambrell/AP]

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