Dubai International Airport warns travellers ‘not to come’ due to extreme floods

An SUV passes through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Dubai has been hit by heavy rainfall causing major highways and runways at the airport to be flooded -Credit:AP

Dubai International Airport has issued a warning to travellers as heavy rain batter the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. Dubai experienced more than a year and a half’s worth of rain in the span of hours, leaving sections of major highways and runways at the airport flooded.

Rain began late on Monday, with some 0.79 inches falling according to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport. Thunderstorms intensified at around 9am local time on Tuesday and continued throughout the day, dumping the city with more rain and hail.

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

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Videos shared on social media showed standing water lapping 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.

A man tries to work on his stalled SUV in standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
More than a year and a half's worth of rain was dumped on Dubai in a span of hours -Credit:AP

On Wednesday Dubai International Airport issued a warning to travellers urging them not to come to the airport if it's not ‘absolutely necessary’ on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. It said: We advise you NOT to come to the airport, unless absolutely necessary.

“Flights continue to be delayed and diverted. Please check your flight status directly with your airline. We are working hard to recover operations as quickly as possible in very challenging conditions.”

Police and emergency personnel drove slowly through the flooded streets of Dubai, their emergency lights shining across the darkened roads. The city’s driverless Metro saw disruptions and flooded stations.

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.

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

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 5.7 inches falling there. Authorities cancelled school and the government instituted remote work again for Wednesday.

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.

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