A major emergency response effort is well under way after large parts of the Northern Emirates were hit by heavy rain and flash floods.
A summer deluge across Fujairah, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah has brought traffic to a standstill, led to waterlogged roads and road closures, and forced people to leave homes damaged by widespread flooding.
In Fujairah, members of the Ministry of Defence have joined forces with police and civil defence teams to help those affected by the hazardous weather.
The operation also involved officers from Dubai Police playing a part in assisting members of the public caught up in challenging conditions.
In a televised broadcast on Thursday evening, officials said at least 870 people were rescued from flooding and more than 3,800 were placed temporary accommodation.
The weather is expected to stabilise in the coming days.
Footage released by the Ministry of Interior showed a civil defence officer carrying a young child to safety from a flooded property in Fujairah.
The emergency responder is seen placing the child into a rubber dinghy floating in a large pool of standing water outside the family home during the rescue mission.
Hundreds rescued in RAK
Police in Ras Al Khaimah came to the aid of more than 200 motorists stranded in mountains and wadis due to rising water levels.
More than 70 police patrols were on hand to support rescue teams on Thursday.
“More than 200 people whose cars were stuck in high mountains and in valleys and who were trapped by water have been rescued and provided support,” said Maj Gen Ali Al Nuaimi, chief of Ras Al Khaimah Police.
The police's air wing unit flew some caught in flooded areas to safety while police helped others to drive safely out of mountainous areas.
Crews are still working to reach families whose homes were damaged by floods.
“Our teams continue to respond to the rest of the reports that were filed by people to the police’s operations room,” said Maj Gen Al Nuaimi.
“Logistic support in terms of food, water and necessary medical supplies is also provided to those who need them.”
He said more than 1,800 calls had been received by the police operations room since the latest bout of wet weather began.
The National Centre of Meteorology issued a safety alert to those in flood-hit areas of Sharjah and Fujairah.
“Be extremely vigilant: hazardous weather events of exceptional severity are forecast,” it said.
The NCM, the National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, and the Ministry of Interior will hold a special briefing on the adverse weather at 4.30pm on Thursday.
Double a year's rainfall in days
Parts of Fujairah have already received more than double the UAE's typical annual rainfall so far this week.
The highest amount of rain was recorded at a National Centre of Meteorology rain gauge in Fujairah Port where 234.9mm of rain fell from 10:30pm on July 25 to 9:18am on Thursday.
The second highest was Masafi — 209.7mm — with the third highest recorded in Fujairah Airport with 187.9mm.
Considering the UAE gets average annual rainfall of about 100mm a year, the statistics underline the severity of the weather.
The NCM forecast the unsettled weather last weekend and told The National on Thursday that similar conditions could be expected for the next few days but probably not to the intensity seen on Wednesday.
“The general situation today [Thursday] is better,” an NCM forecaster said.
“The low pressure systems are slightly weaker with rainfall expected to be of less intensity,” he said. “But we still have low pressure, convective clouds and a chance of rain across the country including Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”
The Ministry of Defence shared images of families being rescued from flooding in Khor Fakkan in the early hours of Thursday.
The government said non-essential public and private sector workers can work from home on Thursday and Friday in flood-affected areas in Fujairah, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.
The decision excludes civil defence, police and emergency responders and those involved in community support to deal with damage to properties.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said nearby hotels should provide accommodation for people who have had to leave their homes.
The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure will draw up a report of the damage caused by the heavy rainfall so that work could start to protect people and property, he added.
In Fujairah, teams used pumps to clear flood waters from main roads to allow traffic to flow, and workers sought to clear blocked drains. The Suhaila Al-Sharjah road to the city of Al Dhaid has been closed until further notice, due to the high level of running water, to ensure the safety of lives and property.
The Ministry of Interior said the safety of people and property is its “top priority” and urged families in flooded areas to stay at home. If they must leave home and drive out of necessity they should “take extreme caution”.
The Ministry of Community Development has also been given the task of accommodating those who have been displaced from their homes by the heavy rains, including those living in high-risk areas.
Those affected will be transferred to temporary shelters and nearby hotels until the weather clears.
Residents seek shelter at hotels
The City Plaza Hotel in Fujairah City received a surge in demand for rooms from residents affected by the floods.
Mohammed Irfan, the receptionist at the hotel, said the property reached maximum occupancy on Wednesday night.
“We had a lot of walk-in customers last night at 9pm to 10pm, when it was raining heavily and the floods became worse,” he said.
“We have 37 rooms and now we are fully booked. Last night, there was a lot of flooding in our area too and a lot of the ways were closed, but now it’s clearer around our hotel.”
Prodyut Sinha, who is in charge of the front office at the Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort in Fujairah, said they received a handful of walk-in customers on Wednesday night.
“People came last night because they needed a place to stay,” he said.
“It was a messy situation yesterday because of the rain. There were also plenty of people who left the hotel yesterday because they couldn’t do any activities.
“It’s more manageable in hotel buildings, but we’re a resort and with this kind of weather it gets difficult.
Hotels in Ras Al Khaimah that spoke to The National said they were operating as normal.
Flooding has affected the Al Nakheel district, a suburb in the emirate, which has only a few hotels.
Workers in civil defence, policy, security services or those involved in responding to crises or emergency services are to work as normal.
Sharjah was hit by flash floods for a second day on Wednesday, with drivers in the emirate battling challenging road conditions.
Large pools of standing water formed on roads in Khor Fakkan after similar scenes the previous day.
The east coast enclave has been lashed by torrential rain that has hit much of the country this week.
On Thursday morning, Sharjah's Roads and Transport Authority urged motorists to avoid using a road in the Daftah area leading to Khor Fakkan except in cases of “extreme necessity”.
It said rocks which had fallen on the road after wadis overflowed were being removed.
The authority later revealed two bus services — the 116 and 611 — which connect the emirate to Fujairah would suspend travel to the eastern regions due to road closures.
Rescue operation in Oman
An air rescue operation was launched in Oman to help more than 130 people left stranded after wadis were flooded during intense rainfall.
Footage shared by Royal Oman Police showed people being taken to safety by helicopter in the Madha area of the country.
Police said all 134 people were in good health and had been transferred to the local airport.
The force said it was continuing to support relief efforts during the hazardous weather.