Residents left without power and low on food hail heroes who braved storms to offer help

'Walls of water' make apartment blocks and villas difficult to reach in Dubai, Ajman and Sharjah, as residents appeal for food and drinking water

Rubesh Pillai's family home in Dubai's Green Community West was badly flooded during this week's unprecedented rainfall. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Flood-hit residents running low on crucial food supplies and left without electricity after the UAE was engulfed by its worst storms on record have told how friends and strangers alike came to their aid.

People in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman have been forced to leave apartments to stay with friends and family as water gushed into basements, damaging pumps and electrical units.

Many living in low-lying villas evacuated their homes after floodwaters surged into the lower floors, often pushing up sewage from choked drains.

Those caught in the eye of the storm have appealed for help on WhatsApp groups, seeking drinking water, food and baby formula.

It’s like a wall of water. People are swimming to get anywhere
Muhammad Radi, a banker, on flood water that remains around his apartment block

Strangers have driven in with supplies and friends have come in to help after the water levels outside their own homes dipped.

Nightmare continues

Imtiyaz Khanam was desperate when she ran low on baby food for her lactose intolerant one-year-old daughter and reached out for help on a support group set up by volunteers.

“We returned from Umrah [pilgrimage to Makkah] and with all the rain, I couldn’t go out for groceries,” the homemaker from Ajman told The National.

“We are stuck at home since Tuesday and I was scared about how I will feed my baby, we needed baby food urgently so I asked for help on a link someone sent me.”

She received messages from many people keen to help.

Dubai flood wrecks family's home

Dubai flood wrecks family's home

One person managed to reach her second-floor apartment in Al Nuaimia area despite the space outside her building almost unpassable due to the high flood water levels.

Her nightmare continues with the family running low on food.

“There is still so much water clogged outside, no cars can move, we didn’t expect anyone to come.

“One person got to us within two hours with the baby formula, which is difficult to get. I’m so thankful for that.

“But now our drinking water is about to finish. It’s getting really tough because the water is near the ground floor stairs.

“We thought this would clear up soon. If this continues we will be short of groceries.”

Answering the call

Abdul Zameer, a young chartered accountant from India who lives nearby, saw the message for help, found the baby formula at a pharmacy and walked through chest-high water to deliver it.

“I saw the message that was forwarded by someone in my company and realised the address was 2km away,” he said.

“You can’t drive because of the water, no grocers are open in our area and only one pharmacy had this milk powder.

What should have been a 10-minute walk turned into a one-hour hike as swampy water had built up around many buildings in the area.

“It was very difficult to walk in those waters. The water was near my ribs, so I lifted up my phone and the baby food.

“I was glad to help someone who needed help.”

Evacuating family

In Sharjah, after managing without electricity and water for two days, Muhammad Radi was able to reach friends who helped remove his elderly mother and young children out of his 30-floor building.

“The main pump of the building is damaged because the basement is flooded with water,” said the Jordanian banker.

“It’s like a wall of water. People are swimming to get anywhere.

“The water is continuously coming in to the building from the street because the street level is higher than the building.

“So even if the water is pumped out of the building, it will come back in because there is so much flood water around.”

A friend from Dubai drove Mr Radi, his 85-year-old mother, wife and children aged nine and six to his brother’s home in Abu Dhabi.

“We stayed for two days without water and electricity but even the emergency lights are not working,” he said.

“The grocery stores are now shut and even when the shops were open, there was not enough drinking water and bread.

“I hope this will end soon.”

Sewage in flood water

In Dubai’s Green Community West, Rubesh Pillai is waiting for food to be delivered by friends.

They will have to wade through murky water nearly a metre high to reach his home located in a lane in the community that remains flooded.

The Sri Lankan businessman is worried as his feet have swollen after walking in water that has filled the first floor of his villa.

“I don’t know if it’s chemicals or sewage in the water but you can see stuff floating in it,” Mr Pillai said.

“We can’t flush the toilets because it all comes bubbling back up.

“We have been using wipes to clean ourselves.

“We are running out of food and water.

“It’s not just me in this situation, our neighbours are also in the same boat, some have left.”

His friends who live in Dubai’s Rashidiya will bring food on Friday after dealing with flooding in their own community.

“The last time when we had severe flooding in 2016, tankers pumped out water 24 hours a day, but this time nothing,” Mr Pillai said.

“Every time it rains, many houses here get flooded but this time because there have been no tankers, it’s the worst I have ever seen.

“We need help. This needs to end.”

Flash flooding in the Northern Emirates caused landslides and roads to collapse.

Heavy rains on Tuesday brought large parts of the country to a standstill with schools, nurseries and universities shutting and authorities urging people to work from home for the rest of the week.

Heavy rain hits Dubai and Abu Dhabi - in pictures

Updated: April 23, 2024, 8:22 AM