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Heavy rains caused flash floods across Dubai

Heavy rains caused flash floods across Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Severe thunderstorms hit the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, dumping the heaviest rain ever recorded in the country within hours as parts of major highways and Dubai International Airport were submerged.

The state-run WAM news agency described the rains as a “historic climate event” that surpassed “anything documented since data collection began in 1949.” That was before the discovery of crude oil in this energy-rich country, which was then part of a British protectorate known as the Trucial States.

Rain began to fall late Monday, drenching sand and roads in Dubai with about 20 millimeters (0.79 inches) of rain, according to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport. The storms intensified around 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday and continued throughout the day, bringing more rain and hail to the stricken city.

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

A truck drives through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. Heavy rain hit the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, submerging parts of major highways and leaving vehicles abandoned on roads across Dubai.  Meanwhile, the death toll in separate heavy floods in neighboring Oman has risen to 18 while others remain missing as the sultanate braces for the storm.  (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

A truck drives through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

By the end of Tuesday, Dubai had received more than 142 mm (5.59 inches) of rain over 24 hours. An average annual rainfall of 94.7 mm (3.73 in) is seen at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest airport for international travel and a hub for Emirates airline's long-haul flights.

At the airport, stagnant water fell on the runways as planes landed. Arrivals ended up being halted at the airport on Tuesday night, and passengers struggled to reach the stations amid floodwaters that covered the surrounding roads.

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One of the couple, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to speak freely in a country with strict laws criminalizing critical expression, described the situation at the airport as “absolute carnage.”

“You can't get a taxi. There are people sleeping at the metro station. There are people sleeping at the airport,” the man said Wednesday.

They ended up taking a taxi near their home about 30 kilometers (18 miles) away, but were stopped by floodwaters on the road. A passerby helped them cross the highway barrier with their carry-on luggage, bottles of gin they'd picked up from duty free bouncing away.

Dubai International Airport admitted on Wednesday morning that the floods had left “limited transportation options” and affected flights as air crews were unable to reach the airport.

“It will take some time to recover,” the airport said on social media platform X. “We thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to address these challenges.”

Police and emergency personnel drove their vehicles slowly through the flooded streets of Dubai. On Tuesday, lightning flashed across the sky, occasionally touching the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The city's driverless metro witnessed disturbances and stations were also flooded.

Schools across the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, had largely closed before the storm, and government employees were largely working remotely if they could. Many workers also stayed home, although some ventured out, with the unfortunate having their vehicles parked in deeper than expected water covering some roads.

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The authorities sent tanker trucks to the streets and highways to pump water. Water flowed into some homes, forcing people to save their homes.

The country's hereditary rulers did not provide any comprehensive damage or casualty information to the nation, as some slept in their flooded cars on Tuesday night. In Ras Al Khaimah, the far north of the country, police said a 70-year-old man died when his car was swept away by floodwaters.

The emirate of Fujairah, located on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, witnessed heavy rain on Tuesday, with levels reaching 145 millimeters (5.7 inches).

The authorities canceled schools and the government decided to work remotely again on Wednesday.

Rainfall is unusual in the UAE, an arid country on the Arabian Peninsula, but occurs periodically during the cold winter months. Many roads and other areas lack drainage due to lack of regular rainfall, causing flooding.

Rain also fell in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In neighboring Oman, the sultanate on the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, at least 18 people have been killed by torrential rains in recent days, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the country's National Emergency Management Committee. This includes about 10 schoolchildren who were swept away by a car along with an adult, resulting in condolences flooding into the country from governors across the region.