'Water was up to my shoulders': Fujairah residents recall ordeal of floods

Praise for authorities who rescued 870 people in operation overnight

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As rescue operations continue after the heavy downpour in the Northern Emirates, residents spoke on Thursday of having to deal with flooded homes, damaged cars and trapped animals.

Emergency teams from civil defence and ambulance services from across the UAE were sent to Fujairah and Khor Fakkan to move families from their flooded homes.

Dozens of military lorries, civil defence vehicles and rescue teams responded quickly to emergency reports and evacuated the area while providing necessities to those in need.

Many roads leading to the Northern Emirates are under water, while others are partly damaged.

Officers were on hand at the main roads and junctions in the emirate to assist motorists facing difficulties and to divert traffic.

“The authority did a great job with rescue and evacuation operations,” said Rashid Mohammed, an Emirati resident in Fujairah.

“I felt safe despite the unstable weather. We are safe and nobody hurt. That’s what matters.”

Authorities said on Thursday that 870 people had been rescued by emergency teams following the unprecedented rains.

In total, 3,897 people were placed in temporary shelter in Sharjah and Fujairah and will remain there until their homes are deemed safe for them to return.

Officials assured the public that emergency and clean-up teams are working around the clock to help those in the worst-affected areas.

No deaths or casualties have been reported.

Late-night pharmacy run

Ismael Abdulwahhab, from Egypt, was trapped in his car during the flood in Fujairah. Ali Al Shouk / The National

Some motorists had to abandon their cars overnight to escape being trapped only to find their vehicles swept to the other side of Khalifa Road in Fujairah the following morning.

Ismael Abdulwahhab, from Egypt, and his family were trapped in their car for more than an hour after they drove to a pharmacy late on Wednesday.

“We went to get medicine for my 18-month-old daughter who had a high fever,” Mr Abdulwahhab, who works as a mechanic, told The National.

His car was quickly deluged, with himself, his wife and two daughters inside.

“I was driving back home after we bought the medicine when the water gushed towards us all of a sudden,” he said.

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“I felt that we were going to die.”

Mr Abdulwahhab started to worry when the water began to enter the car, at which point he decided to carry his daughters one by one out of the vehicle, bringing them to higher ground across the road.

“I stepped out of the car only to be covered with water up to my shoulders. It felt more like floating than walking.”

Along with his daughters and his wife, Mr Abdulwahhab walked for nearly a kilometre towards their home in Al Hail before police officers in a patrol car saw them and took them the rest of the way.

“It was difficult to reach my home, even in a police car, because the neighbourhood was surrounded with water,” he said.

“[The police] told me they won't leave us alone until they made sure we were safe at our home.”

Mr Abdulwahhab returned to the area the next morning at about 6am, but could not find his car.

“I then spotted it on the other side of the road. It was swept away to the other side by the flood,” he said, while waiting for a recovery vehicle to pick the vehicle up.

“It has been badly damaged but I can't know the extent of the damage until I check it in the repair shop.”

Relief on higher ground

Resident Jumaa Salam Al Mesmari was affected by the flooding in Fujairah city. Antonie Robertson / The National

Some families were forced to leave their flooded homes, while others decided to stay to avoid getting stuck on flooded roads.

Emirati Jumaa Al Mesmari, a retiree from Fujairah, said the situation escalated quickly and he did not expect the rain would increase so much. It ultimately flooded his home in Al Faseel neighbourhood.

“I took all precautionary measures but at 2am on Thursday, water entered the house from outside,” Mr Al Mesmari, a father of nine, told The National.

As a former member of the military, Mr Al Mesmari knew that he should not leave the house, which stands on high ground, to avoid being stuck outside in the flood.

“All of my family members are safe but we have small damages in the maids’ rooms attached to the villa where electricity was cut off.”

His eight daughters, who are married and live in other areas in Fujairah, all came to his home for shelter.

“I accommodated my daughters and their children as their houses were full of water and damaged,” Mr Al Mesmari said, as maids and family members busily cleaned the house.

“I have eight rooms in the villa and I feel better having them in front of me rather than worrying about their situation if they were away”

Shelter in Fujairah hotels

A man stands in a flooded street in Fujairah city. Antonie Robertson / The National

Some Fujairah residents who went seeking shelter in hotels were lucky to find vacant rooms.

“We had to leave our home in Murishid area in Fujairah after Al Maghrib time,” said an Emirati man who did not wish to be named.

His family of five quickly packed some items and jumped into their SUV, heading to the nearest available hotel.

“Most hotels are now fully booked and we could hardly find a room at the Novotel Ibis,” he said.

Rain water entered their single-storey villa on Wednesday and, with rain falling constantly, he feared it would become worse

“We will remain at the hotel until we make sure it's safe for us to do so,” he said.

“My eldest son has returned to check and saw that it's been flooded.”

Several recovery vehicles could be seen across most of the areas in Fujairah on Thursday, recovering dozens of cars that had broken down due to the floods.

“I delivered a car from Dubai to Fujairah then got stuck here,” said Saad Al Matlag, a recovery driver from Syria.

“This afternoon, trying to head back to Dubai, a Fujairah taxi that broke down and had been stuck since last night approached me for help.”

Fujairah resident Kholoud Al Tunaiji, who owns a stable near the city's corniche, had to relocate 30 horses after torrential rain flooded her stables overnight.

“The water went up to the horses’ chests and it was risky to leave them or wait for emergency crews,” she told The National.

Ministry of Defence personnel help evacuees down from an army truck as they are taken to accommodation. Photo: Ministry of Defence

“If we left them longer, the pressure of water could affect their respiratory system and they could die.”

Ms Al Tunaiji, her brothers and workers at the stable moved the animals one by one to a farm that is located on higher ground.

“We had to walk the horses several kilometres in the water to take them to a safer place.”

Booked out

Some residents who drove from other emirates to enjoy the cooler weather in Fujairah or had come on business were stranded as hotels became fully booked.

All 32 rooms at the City Plaza hotel were fully occupied, mainly by local families.

“We had many families coming in last night and the night before. They even came from Oman,” said Mohammad Erfan from the hotel’s front desk.

Dozens of people seeking shelter from the rain, which flooded the hotel's reception area, remained in the restaurant until the downpour stopped.

“About 15 or 20 families took shelter at our restaurant,” Mr Erfan said.

An Emirati couple who drove from Dubai to Fujairah on Wednesday evening were unable to find a hotel room.

“Every hotel we went to was fully booked,” said Abu Rashid.

With the drive back to Dubai being risky, they decided to sleep in the car.

“Good thing we had a blanket in the back of our car,” he said.

Vivek Shanhan, originally from India, arrived in Fujairah with a team of three from SpiceJet airline as part of their Hajj operations but became stuck.

“We have to catch a flight to India later today and we can't get any means of transport, not hotel bus or even a taxi,” he said.

An Emirati man, who declined to be identified, said he had to navigate the flooding between houses while carrying his month-old daughter to safety.

“The floods struck us all of a sudden. I decided to leave my home in Al Faseel area. The car broke down in the middle of a flooded road and the water went inside the car,” he said.

“I managed to carry my newborn daughter to safety around midnight. With others' help, I managed to rescue my five children and wife.”

He said this was the first time he had ever witnessed such weather.

“It was a crazy situation but, thank God, I managed to rescue my family. My brother came from Abu Dhabi to help me put my car on recovery vehicle on Thursday,” he added.

Updated: July 30, 2022, 5:33 AM
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