Dubai floods: Chaos, queues and submerged cars after UAE hit by record rains (2024)

Dubai is wrestling with the aftermath of extraordinary torrential rains that flooded the desert city, with people describing harrowing stories of spending the night in their cars, and air passengers enduring chaotic scenes at airports.

Up to 259.5mm (10.2in) of rain fell on the usually arid country of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, the most since records began 75 years ago. The state-run WAM news agency called the rains on Tuesday “a historic weather event” that surpassed “anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949”.

Desert city of Dubai floods as heaviest rainfall in 75 years hits UAERead more

As the sun returned on Wednesday, along with it came stories of people stuck in cars and offices through an arduous night.

“It was one of the most horrific situations I had ever experienced,” said one Dubai resident in his 30s, who did not want to give his name, after his 15-minute commute turned into a 12-hour ordeal on flooded roads.

At Dubai’s airport, one of the busiest for international travel, with nearly every flight repeatedly delayed, Emirates passengers were told to stay away “unless absolutely necessary”.

Frustration from those already there began to build.

A large crowd formed at a connections desk, clapping and whistling in protest as they waited for information.

“They are completely lost, it’s complete chaos – no information, nothing,” fumed one passenger, who did not want to be named, after a 12-hour wait, Agence France-Presse reported.

Standing water lapped on taxiways as aircraft landed. One couple called the situation “absolute carnage”. They spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely in a country with strict laws that criminalise critical speech.

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

The BBC reported other passengers were diverted to Dubai World Central Airport – also known as Al Maktoum airport – telling the broadcaster they had been “living on duty free” and that water was in short supply.

One furious British traveller told PA Media that once his flight was diverted to Dubai World Central, he had not been given any food or water either. “It’s just been an absolute disaster. We’re stuck here and seven hours without a single update is inexcusable.”

Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, posted on X on Wednesday night: “Customers should expect delays with departures and arrivals” and that while some passengers had been able to get to their destinations “we are aware that many are still waiting to get on flights”.

Dubai floods: Chaos, queues and submerged cars after UAE hit by record rains (1)

The airline cancelled all check-ins and announced that it would continue to suspend services until Thursday morning, apologising for the disruptions. Those on FlyDubai, Emirates’ low-cost sister airline, also faced delays.

Dubai airport posted on X early on Thursday that flights had resumed from Terminal 1 but urged people to travel to the airport only if they had a confirmed booking, as flights continued to be “delayed and disrupted”.

Paul Griffiths, the airport’s CEO, acknowledged the issues with flooding on Wednesday. “It remains an incredibly challenging time. In living memory, I don’t think anyone has ever seen conditions like it,” Griffiths told the state-owned talk radio station Dubai Eye.

Neighbouring countries were also hit by heavy rains earlier this week, including Oman, where 20 people have died, including 10 schoolchildren swept away in a vehicle with an adult.

Soldiers were deployed to badly affected areas of the sultanate, which rests on the eastern edge of the Arabian peninsula, to evacuate people trapped by flooding.

Schools will stay closed in Dubai until next week, authorities said, underscoring the difficulty of the clean-up.

In an unusual direct intervention, the UAE president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ordered “authorities to quickly work on studying the condition of infrastructure throughout the UAE and to limit the damage caused”, official media said.

The president also gave orders for affected families to be transferred to safe locations, said a statement carried by the WAM news agency.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, wrote on X about “efforts being made by teams of citizens and residents that continue day and night” as the city’s media office posted video overlayed with dramatic music of officials conferring in groups and water pumping appearing to take place in the background.

Photos too were posted of what it said showed water flooding into desert areas.

صور من جريان الأودية في صحراء القدرة في #دبي

— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) April 17, 2024

Similar scenes were visible around the Gulf state including in Sharjah, in neighbouring Dubai, where people waded through main streets and paddled around on makeshift boats.

At least one person was killed in the flooding. A 70-year-old man who was swept away in his car in Ras al-Khaimah, one of the country’s seven emirates, according to police.

The UAE government announced that remote working for most federal government employees had been extended into another day because of the impact.

Agence France-Presse, PA Media and Associated Press contributed to this report

Dubai floods: Chaos, queues and submerged cars after UAE hit by record rains (2024)


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