Strong winds in UAE topple crane, force cancellation of sport and music events

Strong winds of up to 65kph are predicted throughout the country, and motorists are warned there could be reduced visibility due to blowing sand.

High winds drive sand across Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Highway on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on February 3, 2017. Winds were reported to have reached 75kph according to the National Centre of Meteorology & Seismology. Christopher Pike / The National
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DUBAI // Unusually strong winds toppled a crane over Sheikh Zayed Road Friday injuring at least one person, damaging a hotel and several vehicles.

Blowing debris, including sheets of steel, wood and glass caused chaos in the area around the Nassima Royal Hotel, where the crane collapsed.

Dubai Media Office said that authorities were “handling the situation to ensure the safety of everyone on site”, and closed off the area for safety reasons.

They reported on Twitter that there was an “initial report of casualties”, with one injured and taken to hospital for treatment. Dubai Civil Defence confirmed the injury and reported four vehicles damaged in the collapse at about 1.44pm.

One guest, who asked not to be named, said he was out when the crash happened. “I was actually coming back from the mall because I wanted to stay home with this weather today. The roads aren’t safe and cars are just being blown by the wind. It’s not weather to be outside.”

Aaron Miles was leaving a nearby cafe in the building shortly after the accident. “It’s a mess out here. I’ve never seen weather like this in Dubai since I moved here last year,” he said. “It’s sketchy out here. There’s a lot of glass and debris being blown around. The sheets of iron [temporary walls around the building site] are literally flying, even the wood. It’s so windy it’s hard to even stand up straight.”

Falling debris on the tracks over the motorway caused a temporary suspension of Dubai Metro service between Jafilyah and Business Bay stations, which the Roads and Transport Authority said was a safety precaution. The authority offered an alternative bus service between the affected stations while the metro was on hold.

Flor Cacayan, a restaurant worker in the area who uses the service, said she was forced to travel home by bus after the metro services were postponed.

“Seeing the cars crushed is quite scary.

“I actually don’t feel safe on the roads on a bus right now, but there is no other way to get home,” Ms Cacayan said.

But within an hour metro operations were back to normal.

Adverse weather led to several music and sporting events in Dubai being cancelled.

The Dubai Tour announced it would cancel the fourth stage of the international cycling race owing to weather conditions, while the second round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament was also suspended for the day because of high winds.

The second and final night of RedfestDxb, at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, was postponed until Saturday.

Organisers Arabian Radio Network and Done Events confirmed to The National that all acts originally slated for yesterday, including big-selling pop stars Demi Lovato, Tove Lo and Mike Posner, will perform Saturday.

“The primary focus of the organising team is to ensure the safety of all spectators,” said the statement by the organisers, who urged fans not to visit the venue yesterday.

Global Village also announced it would close on Friday citing safety issues. The doors will reopen on Saturday at 4pm.

Earlier on Friday, the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology issued a warning to motorists across the country, but particularly in the Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport area, to watch out for blowing sand and reduced visibility caused by strong winds.

A spokesman for the NCMS said that winds in Dubai reached speeds of 55 kilometres an hour at about 2pm, with gusts of up to 75kph.

“At that time, there was also a sandstorm in the vicinity of Al Maktoum International Airport,” according to the NCMS. The unstable weather was caused by a low-pressure system north of the UAE that pushed strong north-westerly winds across the country, with rain and even snow to the Northern Emirates.

Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE’s highest mountain, turned into a winter wonderland after 10 centimetres of snow blanketed the area.


Temperatures reached a low of minus 2.2°C on the mountain yesterday morning, the lowest temperature in the country.

“Last year, it didn’t snow, but it has happened in the past,” reported the NCMS. “It’s not common, but it happens.”

Rain also fell as scattered showers were recorded in Dubai and the Northern Emirates with winds creating four-metre-plus waves offshore, said the NCMS.

The NCMS said the unstable weather would settle and “everything will be back to normal” by Sunday.

The Centre said it carried out cloud seeding on Friday, but that the rain-enhancement programme did not cause storms or create strong winds, only improving the chances of precipitation.

Abu Dhabi Police said they received nearly 4000 calls on Friday and urged motorist to be cautious while the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority advised people to stay away from tall trees and power and communication lines.

Dubai Municipality said the public could contact them regarding fallen trees.