Dubai faces massive clean-up after deluge swamps glitzy desert city

By Reuters
April 19, 2024
Cars are stranded on a flooded in Dubai following heavy rains on April 18, 2024. — AFP

DUBAI: Dubai, a city in the desert proud of its modern gloss, faced the towering task on Thursday of clearing its waterclogged roads and drying out flooded homes two days after a record storm saw a year’s rain fall in a day.


Dubai International Airport, a major travel hub, struggled to clear a backlog of flights and many roads were still flooded in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deluge.

The rains were the heaviest experienced by the United Arab Emirates in the 75 years that records have been kept. They brought much of the country to a standstill and caused significant damage.

Flooding trapped residents in traffic, offices and homes. Many reported leaks at their homes, while footage circulated on social media showed malls overrun with water pouring from roofs.

In Dubai, the UAE’s most populous emirate, traffic remained disrupted even as public transportation services resumed.

Street closures, detours and partially submerged roads caused heavy congestion, with some cars driving towards oncoming traffic in effort to avoid flooded areas.

A highway through Dubai was reduced to a single lane in one direction, while the main road that connects Dubai with the capital Abu Dhabi was partially closed in both directions.

“This was like nothing else. It was like an alien invasion,” Jonathan Richards, a Dubai resident from Britain told Reuters.

“I woke up the other morning to people in kayaks with pet dogs, pet cats, suitcases all outside my house.”

Another resident, Rinku Makhecha, said the rain swamped her freshly renovated house she moved into two weeks ago.

“My entire living room is just like… all my furniture is floating right now,” she said.

Vehicles, including buses, were abandoned on streets and some could be seen submerged in water. In Abu Dhabi, some supermarkets and restaurants faced product shortages, unable to receive deliveries from Dubai.

Dubai airport had yet to resume normal operation after the storm flooded taxiways, forcing flight diversions, delays and cancellations.

Dubai Airports Chief Operating Officer Majed Al Joker told Al Arabiya TV he expected Dubai International Airport to reach 60-70 percent capacity by the end of Thursday and full operational capacity within 24 hours. The airport struggled to get food to stranded passengers with nearby roads flooded and overcrowding limited access to those who had confirmed bookings.