Dubai airport faces disruptions as heavy rains set off flash floods in UAE

Published April 17, 2024
Passengers wait for their flights at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai on April 17. — AFP
Passengers wait for their flights at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai on April 17. — AFP
Motorisits drive along a flooded street following heavy rains in Dubai early on April 17. — AFP
Motorisits drive along a flooded street following heavy rains in Dubai early on April 17. — AFP

Authorities and communities across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were clearing debris on Wednesday after a torrential downpour killed at least one person and caused damage to homes and businesses while Dubai’s airport faced disruptions.

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

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.

Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, said it was facing significant disruptions after the heavy rains delayed or diverted flights and had 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.

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.

Air Arabia, in a post on X, said that flights had either been cancelled or rescheduled due to weather conditions in the UAE and the region. It urged passengers to visit its website or contact its call centre for the latest updates.

Local media reported that an elderly 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.

Meanwhile, The National reported that the UAE’s weather bureau confirmed no cloud-seeding missions took place during Tuesday’s torrential rain.

“An official for the National Centre of Meteorology confirmed that its seeding planes had not carried out flights after heavy rain inundated parts of the country,” it said.

The publication, which was running a live blog on the weather situation on its website, said many people had speculated on social media that the country’s cloud seeding programme was in some way responsible for the deluge.

On Tuesday, some 150 Pakistanis were stranded for hours at the UAE’s Al Ain Airport. Their flight, Flydubai FZ-334, en route from Karachi to Dubai, was diverted due to heavy rainfall that flooded the airport, making it impossible for the aircraft to land.

According to Flightradar, a real-time flight tracking service, the flight, which was supposed to land in Dubai at 12:45pm, was rerouted to Al Ain, landing there around 4pm.

Maria Khan, one of the passengers stranded at the Al Ain Airport, told Dawn.com today that “no arrangements” had been made for an alternative flight or accommodations.

She confirmed that all 150 passengers were still stranded at the airport on Wednesday. She highlighted that the airport was a small one with “very few flights” departing from there, adding that there were no arrangements for taking the passengers to their original destination.

“I only got an email from Flydubai saying my [flight ticket] cost will be refunded. Nothing about alternatives,” she said.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Oman 19 people died, including school children 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 downpour in some parts of the country, including collapsed roads and homes inundated by water.

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 kilometres-long traffic jam for hours.

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