Clean-up begins after at least one dead in heavy UAE rain, floods

The UAE saw record rainfall with 254 mm (10 inches) falling in less than 24 hours in Al Ain, a city on the UAE-Oman border

By Reuters
April 18, 2024
An SUV splashes through stagnant water on a road with the Burj Al Arab hotel seen in the background in Dubai, UAE on April 16, 2024. — AFP

DUBAI: Authorities and communities across the United Arab Emirates were clearing debris on Wednesday after at least one person died and homes and businesses were damaged in a rare torrential storm.


The extent of the damage was not immediately clear as emergency workers sought to drain flooded roads across the country hours after heavy rain subsided late on Tuesday.

The UAE saw record rainfall with 254 mm (10 inches) falling in less than 24 hours in Al Ain, a city on the UAE-Oman border, according to the national meteorology centre. That was the most since records began in 1949, before the UAE was formed in 1971.

It is not uncommon for roads to become partially submerged underwater during extended periods of rainfall. It typically only ever rains a few times a year.

The UAE also frequently conducts cloud seeding operations to increase rainfall. A forecaster from the national meteorology centre denied any cloud seeding operations had taken place recently.

Bloomberg earlier quoted the agency as saying seven cloud seeding operations had occurred in the days before the storm. Climate scientists say that rising global temperatures, driven by man-made climate change, is leading to more extreme weather events, including intense rainfall like the UAE storm.

The impact of the heavy rain continued to be felt on Wednesday, with roads blocked and flights severely disrupted.

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, stopped checking-in passengers departing Dubai until midnight. Flydubai, which partially resumed flights in the morning, said operations would not return to normal until after midnight. Meanwhile, budget carrier Air Arabia AIRA.DU suspended check-in to flights to and from Sharjah until 2 a.m. on Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday).

Kanish Kumar Deb Barman, 39, said he had been stuck at Dubai airport with his wife since around 4 a.m., when his flight landed late from Paris, missing his next flight to Calcutta, in India.

Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, said after the storm subsided that the heavy rain had caused significant disruptions, with flights delayed and diverted, and advised passengers in Dubai against travelling to the airport. Some foreign airlines cancelled flights to Dubai.

Local media and social media posts showed significant damage across the country, including collapsed roads and flooded homes.

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. In Dubai, the skies were clear and in some areas the roads were quiet after the government ordered its employees and all schools to work remotely for a second consecutive day.