Dubai airport, roads flooded as storm dumps 1.5 years’ rain on desert city
A video grab shows a plane taxiing on a flooded runway at Dubai International Airport | Courtesy: X

Dubai airport, roads flooded as storm dumps 1.5 years’ rain on desert city

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142 mm of rainfall had soaked Dubai over 24 hours; an average year sees 94.7 mm of rain at Dubai International Airport

Dubai’s international airport and major highways went under several inches of water as heavy thunderstorms dumped over a year and a half’s worth of rain on the desert city-state on Tuesday (April 16).

Apart from the UAE, neighbouring Oman received heavy rainfall as well, and the floods there left 18 people dead and several missing.

More than a year’s rain in 24 hours

The rains began late Monday, soaking the sands and roadways of Dubai with some 20 millimetres (0.79 inches) of rain, according to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport.

The storms intensified around 9 am (local time) on Tuesday and continued throughout the day, dumping more rain and hail onto the overwhelmed city.

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142 millimetres (5.59 inches) of rainfall had soaked Dubai over 24 hours. An average year sees 94.7 millimetres (3.73 inches) of rain at Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest for international travel and a hub for the long-haul carrier Emirates.

Airport suspends operations

At the airport standing 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 also had to suspend operations for 25 minutes as its website showed dozens of flights delayed or cancelled on April 16. Among the affected destinations were India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UK.

Schools shut, roads flooded

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 saw disruptions and flooded stations as well.

Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, largely shut ahead of the storm. Government employees largely worked remotely. Many workers stayed home as well, though some ventured out, with their vehicles being stalled out in deeper-than-expected water on some roads.

Water pumped out of roads

Authorities sent tanker trucks out into the streets and highways to pump away the water. Water poured into some homes, forcing people to bail out their houses.

The country’s hereditary rulers offered no overall damage information or injury information for the nation, as some slept into their flooded vehicles through Tuesday night. 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 145 millimetres (5.7 inches) falling there.

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

No drainage for heavy rain

Rain is unusual in the UAE, an arid, Arabian Peninsula nation, but occurs 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, at least 18 people had been killed in heavy rains in recent days, according to a statement on Tuesday from the country’s National Committee for Emergency Management. That includes some 10 schoolchildren swept away in a vehicle with an adult, which saw condolences come into the country from rulers across the region.

(With agency inputs)

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