'Carnage' at Dubai airport as UAE hit by 'heaviest rainfall in 75 years'

Record rainfalls in the United Arab Emirates and the wider Gulf region have flooded major roads and caused "carnage" at Dubai's international airport.

More than 14cm (5.6 inches) of rain soaked Dubai on Tuesday, around as much as normally falls in a year-and-a-half at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel.

The heavy thunderstorms were "a historic weather event" that surpassed anything seen since records began in 1949, the state-run WAM news agency said.

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Schools across the UAE, which largely shut ahead of the storm, remained closed on Wednesday and the government ordered staff to continue working from home.

At the airport, arrivals were paused on Tuesday night as standing water lapped on taxiways as aircraft landed, while passengers struggled to reach terminals through the floodwater covering surrounding roads.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, EgyptAir suspended flights between Cairo and Dubai until the weather in the UAE improved.

A couple, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in a country where critical comments can be punished by law, said it was "absolute carnage" at the airport.

The man said: "You cannot get a taxi. There's people sleeping in the metro station. There's people sleeping in the airport."

On Wednesday morning, Dubai International Airport said on X the flooding had left "limited transportation options" and "recovery will take some time".

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Some forced to bail out homes

Flights were affected as aircraft crews could not reach the airfield and stations on the city's driverless metro were flooded, as the waters caused disruptions.

Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, had been mostly shut ahead of the storm, with staff joining government employees in largely working from home.

Tanker trucks were sent out into the streets and larger roads to pump away the water as some people were forced to bail out flooded homes amid rising waters.

The country's hereditary rulers offered no overall damage information or injury information for the nation, as some slept in their flooded vehicles on Tuesday night.

Claims extreme weather due to cloud seeding

A 70-year-old man died when his vehicle was swept away by floodwater in Ras al Khaimah, the country's northernmost emirate, police said.

Tuesday's heaviest rainfall was at Fujairah, an emirate on the UAE's eastern coast, where 14.5cm (5.7 inches) fell.

Some reports have linked the extreme weather to "cloud seeding", in which small planes flown by the government go through clouds burning special salt flares, which can increase precipitation.

Several quoted meteorologists at the National Centre for Meteorology as saying they flew six or seven cloud seeding flights before the rain.

Flight-tracking data showed that one aircraft linked to the UAE's cloud seeding efforts flew around the country on Sunday.

The UAE, which relies heavily on energy-hungry desalination plants to provide water, carries out cloud seeding in part to increase its dwindling, limited groundwater.

Evidence seeding works 'slim at best'

But Sky News weather producer Chris England said he doubted cloud seeding contributed to the downpours, as the evidence of it working is "pretty slim at best", adding: "Some studies have indicated climate change will bring an increase in rainfall to the area."

He said the UAE "has fairly frequent flash flooding during the winter half of the year", although "for the built up areas of Dubai the current flooding is unusual".

"Yesterday [Tuesday] may well have been the wettest April day on record. Combine that with infrastructure not necessarily designed to handle large rainfall events and you have a recipe for floods," he said.

The rains began late on Monday and, after intensifying on Tuesday morning, continued throughout the day, dumping more rain and even hail, on the city.

Rain is unusual in the UAE, an arid, Arabian Peninsula nation, but occurs periodically during the cooler winter months.

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Heavy rain fell elsewhere

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, at least 18 people had been killed in heavy rains in recent days, the National Committee for Emergency Management said on Tuesday, including 10 schoolchildren and an adult who were swept away in a vehicle.

At least 63 people, including 15 children, have died in Pakistan, some after buildings collapsed, following four days of heavy rains and flooding, officials said on Wednesday.

Dozens of people have died in neighbouring Afghanistan due to flash floods.