UAE reels for a third day after record-breaking storm

Published April 18, 2024
A person stands surrounded by flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on April 17. — Reuters
A person stands surrounded by flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on April 17. — Reuters
People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on April 17. — Reuters
People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on April 17. — Reuters

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was still grappling on Thursday with the aftermath of a record-breaking storm this week that brought much of the country to a standstill.

In Dubai, operations at the airport, a major travel hub, remain disrupted after Tuesday’s storm flooded the runway, resulting in flight diversions, delays and cancellations.

The airport said on Thursday morning it had resumed receiving inbound flights at Terminal 1, used by foreign carriers, but that flights continue to be delayed and disrupted.

Emirates, the single largest carrier at the airport, said it would resume checking-in passengers in Dubai at 9am (0500 GMT) on Thursday, delaying the restart from midnight by nine hours.

The airport struggled to get food to stranded passengers with nearby roads blocked by flood waters, and because of overcrowding limited access to those who had confirmed bookings.

The storm, which hit neighbouring Oman on Sunday, pounded the UAE on Tuesday, flooding roads and causing hours-long gridlock as rainwater inundated homes. One person was reported dead in the UAE and 20 in Oman.

Flooding trapped residents in traffic, offices and homes as the UAE recorded its heaviest rains in the 75 years that records have been kept, authorities said.

Authorities have also told government employees and students to stay home while waterlogged roads are cleared.

Climate experts say rising temperatures caused by human-led climate change are leading to more extreme weather events around the world, such as the storm that struck the UAE and Oman.

“It’s likely that the storm was kind of supercharged by climate change because there’s just more moisture available in the air for any storm system to then precipitate out,” said Colleen Colja, a climate scientist at Imperial College London.

Researchers anticipate that climate change will lead to heightened temperatures, increased humidity and a greater risk of flooding in parts of the Gulf region.

The problem can be worsened in countries like the UAE where there is a lack of drainage infrastructure to cope with heavy rains.

A UAE government agency that oversees cloud seeding — a process of manipulating clouds to increase rainfall — denied that any such operations took place before the storm.

The UAE state news agency late on Wednesday carried a statement from President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan saying he had ordered authorities to assess the damage and provide support to families impacted by the storm.

Helpline set up to assist Pakistanis

Meanwhile, the Pakistan embassy in the UAE established a helpline centre to provide all possible assistance to citizens affected by the weather. A press release said that any Pakistani in Dubai and the northern Emirates who needed information regarding the rainfall or assistance could contact the embassy on the following WhatsApp numbers: 971-4-3973600 and 971-566472721.

They could also contact the embassy on the following telephone numbers: 971-50-1248934 and 971-24-447800.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UAE Faisal Niaz Tirmizi directed embassy staff to reach out to the Pakistani community for all possible assistance.

Pakistani Consul-General in Dubai Hussain Muhammad also formed a special team to visit Dubai airport to meet the Pakistani nationals stranded due to delays in flights. The team visted the airport and met with Pakistanis to provide assistance and facilitate them.

“We will ensure provision of all possible assistance to our community members affected by recent rains,” Tirmizi said.

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