At least one dead as heavy rains set off flash floods in UAE

Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, forced to cut back flights as city sees 142 millimeters (5.59 inches) of rainfall in 24 hours

Vehicles sit abandoned in floodwater covering a major road in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Jon Gambrell/AP)
Vehicles sit abandoned in floodwater covering a major road in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

Authorities and communities across the United Arab Emirates were clearing debris on Wednesday after a torrential downpour killed at least one person and caused damage to homes and businesses.

The UAE witnessed a record rainfall with 254 mm falling in Al Ain on Tuesday in less than 24 hours, according to the national meteorology center. That was the most since records began in 1949, before the country was established in 1971.

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142 millimeters (5.59 inches) of rainfall had soaked Dubai over 24 hours. An average year sees 94.7 millimeters (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.

Although heavy rains had eased by late Tuesday, disruptions were continuing on Wednesday, with Emirates airline suspending check-in for passengers departing Dubai airport until midnight.

The airport said it was facing significant disruptions after the heavy rains delayed or diverted flights and impacted flight crews.

Passengers departing Dubai were advised against heading to the airport and to check their flight status with their airline.

“We are working hard to recover operations as quickly as possible in very challenging conditions,” the airport wrote on X.

Unverified videos shared on social media showed flooding inside airport buildings.

Emirates said passengers who were already in transit would continue to be processed but warned that delays to departures and arrivals should be expected. The Dubai airport website showed hours-long delays for some arrival and departure flights.

Local media reported that an Emirati man in his 70s died on Tuesday morning when his vehicle was caught in flash floods in the Ras Al Khaimah emirate, in the country’s north.

At Dubai Airport, standing water lapped on taxiways as aircraft landed.

One couple, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to speak freely in a country with strict laws that criminalize critical speech, called the situation at the airport “absolute carnage.”

“You cannot get a taxi. There’s people sleeping in the Metro station. There’s people sleeping in the airport,” the man said Wednesday.

They ended up getting a taxi to near their home some 30 kilometers (18 miles) away, but floodwater on the road stopped them. A bystander helped them over a highway barrier with their carry-on luggage, the bottles of gin they picked up from duty-free clinking away.

Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, largely shut ahead of the storm, and government employees were largely working remotely if able. Many workers stayed home as well, though some ventured out, with the unfortunate stalling out their vehicles in deeper-than-expected water covering some roads.

People look out at floodwater covering a major road in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

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 Tuesday night.

In neighboring Oman, 19 people died, including schoolchildren, after three consecutive days of heavy rain, according to Omani media, which published images of flooded communities.

The Times of Oman reported that more rain was expected on Wednesday. In Dubai, the skies were clear but in some areas the roads were quiet after the government ordered its employees and all schools to work remotely for a second consecutive day.

UAE media and social media posts showed significant damage from the torrential downpours in some parts of the country, including collapsed roads and homes inundated by water.

Vehicles drive through heavy rain on the Sheikh Zayed Road highway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Jon Gambrell/AP)

Social media posts on Tuesday showed flooded roads and car parks with some vehicles completely submerged. Sheikh Zayed Road, a 12-lane highway through Dubai, was partially flooded, leaving people stuck in a kilometers-long traffic jam for hours.

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