Middle East battered by severe rainstorms

Flash floods in Erbil, while outdoor events in Saudi Arabia cancelled to protect public safety

Rain is causing chaos across the Middle East, with flash flooding in Erbil and the cancellation of outdoor events in Saudi Arabia to protect public safety.

In the UAE, many areas were affected by rain on Sunday, some of it heavy.

Forecasters issued a weather warning covering much of Abu Dhabi, urging people to be aware of the possibility of hazardous weather in some areas on the coast and inland.

Forecasters warned that the rain could return later in the week, making it one of the wettest recent starts to a new year.

Other parts of the region have also experienced heavy downpours in recent days.

In Saudi Arabia, moderate to heavy rain led to the cancellation of many outdoor events in Riyadh on Friday. They included a sell-out K-pop Stray Kids and Chungha concert, which was being held as part of Riyadh Season.

Fans were asked to evacuate the outdoor arena as “quickly and quietly as possible”, according to reports.

The organisers of Riyadh Season issued tweets announcing the closure of all outdoor events and zones for public safety on the day.

The rain-affected several areas, including Makkah, Madinah, Hail, Qassim, and the Alkhobar region.

In Iraq, heavy rain caused flash floods in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region, on Thursday.

Major roads were submerged and water entered many people’s homes, damaging their property. Firefighters pumped water out of buildings.

More than 300 hotel rooms were set aside for the families who were affected. They would also be provided with goods, the local government said.

Erbil often suffers severe floods during the winter. Thursday’s bout of rainy weather was the third of the season so far.

In Gaza, heavy rain caused floods in Gaza city, turning streets into rivers as drains overflowed.

Climate change impact

Experts have said extreme weather events like flash floods are becoming more common in the region owing to climate change.

A report by Emirates Wildlife Society from 2017 titled UAE Climate Change Risks & Resilience, found the UAE was likely to experience more rainfall and the risk of flash floods due to global warming.

Annual rainfall could increase by 200 per cent, it said.

In the first few days of 2022 alone, the UAE has received 18 months of rain in some areas.

In January 2020, the UAE experienced a three-day rainstorm that caused widespread floods and chaos on roads, damaging homes and forcing schools to close.

The extreme weather was caused by climate change, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, who was then Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said.

Studies in the UAE have shown heavy rain spells have become longer-lasting over the past two decades.

The research by Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi and the National Centre of Meteorology in the UAE found the events “may be even more impactful in a warming world”.

Experts have said a warmer atmosphere could hold more water vapour, meaning extreme events last longer.

Updated: January 16, 2022, 12:48 PM
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