'I've never seen rain like it': UAE residents return to flooded homes and submerged cars

Authorities continue the clear up operation with stranded vehicles and debris removed from the roads

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Residents on the UAE's east coast have recounted the frantic and frightening moment when floodwaters woke them from sleep and inundated their homes on Thursday.

As they returned to assess the damage on Friday, they still spoke of their shock at watching the waters rise quickly and overwhelm their houses within 10 minutes, leaving them rushing to get their families to safety, with no time to take anything.

Several people in Sharjah's Kalba said the torrential rain at around 6am — the likes of which they have never experienced — quickly turned into a crisis.

“We ran for our lives,” Bangladeshi resident, Tahidul Islam, told The National. He fled his home in Kalba with his wife, their daughter, 7, and their 4-month-old baby.

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We had to run away from the house because within 10 minutes the water came inside
Tahidul Islam

“We had to run away from the house because within 10 minutes the water came inside,” said Mr Islam, who has been in the UAE for a decade. “There was no chance to take anything, such as baby milk.”

Sudanese resident, Adbelbasit Hassan, whose home was also flooded, said the water came up to his waist at one point on Thursday, at the height of the deluge. He left with his wife to stay with relatives.

“My car was totally flooded and my place fully damaged. There is still water inside.”

Mr Islam and Mr Hassan took The National to see the extent of damage to their homes, which were only accessible by walking through knee-deep water in backstreets.

Tahidul Islam, from Bangladesh, clears up, after the damage caused by the floods in Kalba, Sharjah. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

By Friday afternoon, the water had receded from Mr Islam's house but inside it was damp, damaged and dark as the electricity had been shut off for safety.

He had already begun the arduous clean-up, and was mopping up some of the remaining water in his home, though it was clear from the damage done that this would take some time.

Dozens of other homes in the area were also flooded, with scores of vehicles still under water.

“I had no idea what was happening,” said Mr Islam. “It was like I was dreaming. Even when I saw it, I couldn't believe it and I thought, where I will go?”

Residents said that government rescue buses came early on Thursday to take people to safety, while others chose to stay with relatives in areas that were not so badly affected.

“A rescue team came very early to take us,” said Mr Islam. “We went to a friend’s house, but many people went with them.”

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Many people in Fujairah and Sharjah said it was the worst flooding they had ever seen.

They were surprised by the intensity of the downpour and how swiftly the floodwaters inundated their homes.

This was backed up by the rain statistics with the National Centre of Meteorology confirming it was the wettest July in decades.

“I have never seen rain like that before,” said Mr Islam, wading through water near his home. “There was rain before, but not like that.”

All across the UAE’s east coast on Friday morning, the aftermath of the deluge was apparent.

Seven people lost their lives, the Ministry of Interior confirmed, and rescue efforts were continuing.

Upturned trees, buckled lampposts, scores of abandoned cars caught in the surging floodwater and huge pools of water were visible across Fujairah city.

Several underpasses on the city’s new Hamad bin Abdulla Road closed to traffic, leaving cars forced to navigate flooded outer roads.

But rescue teams were working intensely to clear the streets and make them usable again. Bulldozers were clearing debris deposited by the floods, recovery vehicles removing stranded cars and workers pumping water from the main motorways.

Some roads, such as those to Khor Fakkan, remained inaccessible and other routes close to wadis were also closed to traffic.

Authorities warned hoteliers not to exploit the crisis by raising prices, with several being used as emergency accommodation. Business was also halted at Fujairah’s popular dive schools.

“We were lucky as there was no damage to my centre,” said Simon Nadim, manager of the XR Hub Diving Centre in the Fujairah International Marine Club.

Mr Nadim said no diving had taken place since July 26 due to a weather warning.

“It is also a full warning today and boats cannot go out to sea,” he said.

It was overcast across the east coast on Friday but the NCM said that the most intense weather had passed and it did not anticipate, for now, any more downpours like the ones that hammered the east coast on Thursday.

Officials on Thursday said more than 800 people were rescued and 3,800 were placed in temporary accommodation.

And for many, the clean-up will begin in earnest when the streets are clear and they can resume their lives.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Mr Hassan, looking at the floods. “All I can do is wait for now.”

Updated: August 06, 2022, 5:24 AM
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