Jeddah storm sweep away cars and causes power cuts

Water levels rise in western Saudi Arabia with more heavy rain expected

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Two people were killed on Thursday as strong winds and heavy rains closed roads and swept away cars in Saudi Arabia's western coastal city of Jeddah.

Authorities shut the road to Makkah and cancelled flights from the city of four million on the Red Sea. Several people were rescued from submerged cars.

Social media posts showed people wading through flooded streets and cars stuck in the mud on Thursday morning, with more rain expected at the weekend.

The city's King Abdulaziz International Airport said that "due to weather conditions, the departure of some flights has been delayed" and urged passengers to contact carriers for up-to-date schedules.

Peter Kaminski, a British fitness coach in Jeddah, took a photograph of a lightning strike from his apartment building. He had gone out barefoot to check on his car, which he found was submerged in water.

"It’s was all pretty impressive watching from inside until I realised I had to check on my car … I waded out knee-deep into the road to rescue it! Not a typical Thursday morning in Jeddah,” he told The National.

Like many others who take road trips at the weekend, Manal Ali, a Saudi teacher in Jeddah, had to cancel her plans.

“We were going to drive to Taif and then Riyadh this morning. It’s been raining for six hours now. I’ve never seen it rain like this before. My children were scared and woke up because of the loud thunder ― you can still see the lightning and thunder,” she said.

Schools and universities were closed in Jeddah, authorities announced before dawn, in anticipation of the stormy weather.

Schools were also closed in the nearby towns of Rabigh and Khulais "to preserve the safety of male and female students", state-run SPA said.

The country's children are in the middle of final exams but schools closed on Wednesday as well as King Salman declared a national holiday following Saudi Arabia's shock win over Argentina in the Qatar World Cup match.

“We got a message this morning that the ministry has issued a warning for rain, floods and thunder, so kids didn’t go to school. We lost power for a while and now the water," said Maya Khaled, a Jeddah resident.

"We are blessed to have a roof over our heads and to be safe with our families. I have seen videos on social media [of] people [who] have completely lost their cars and some suffered damage to properties, I hope the day clears and everyone is safe."

Hasna Baker, meanwhile, was exercising when the roads became impassable.

“I was at the gym trying to make the day a good one and I got stuck. Luckily the Uber that came was a [Jeep] Wrangler, so I didn't get stranded," she said.

“The main roads are flooded. You can only go out if you have an SUV or Jeep.”

Forecasts for Friday show the possibility of more storms through the afternoon.

It is not uncommon for winter storms to cause flooding in Jeddah, causing significant issues in what the local council calls "slum" neighbourhoods that have sprung up with little oversight in recent years.

The government has undertaken to rebuild 64 neighbourhoods to clear dangerous and poor-quality housing and infrastructure that are quickly damaged or destroyed by flooding.

Updated: November 25, 2022, 9:01 AM
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