Weekend rainstorm brings chaos to Dubai and Abu Dhabi roads

Hour-long tailbacks are reported on Sheikh Zayed Road, as 150 milimetres of rain hits Dubai in one hour

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A 10-hour rainstorm brought chaos to the UAE's roads on Saturday morning with long traffic tailbacks and flooding across the cities.

Rain fell throughout Friday and the early hours of Saturday leaving many roads heavily waterlogged. Preliminary readings from Dubai showed that 150mm of rain had fallen every hour for two-and-a-half hours.

In an average January, just 10mm of rain usually falls in Dubai over the full month.

Light rain may fall on Sunday and Monday, the National Centre of Meteorology said, but there is not expected to be a repeat on the weekend's deluge,

Drivers sat in standstill on the Dubai to Abu Dhabi from 7am. Some got out of their cars and stood at the side of the highway and many were still stuck by 11am.

The roads near Dubai Parks and Resorts near Jebel Ali and in the Dubai Mall area in Downtown area were among the worst hit.

Tunnels running under Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai were impassable in some areas. An image of a taxi with water up to its windscreen was widely circulated online.

In Abu Dhabi, the Airport Road was almost impassable with knee-deep water logging the roads. Staff from The National saw drivers stranded on the road and standing by their vehicles waiting for help.

The municipality urged residents to report flooding and fallen street lights by phoning 993 or by WhatsApp on 056 993 9930.

Abu Dhabi Police said that the speed limit had been set at 80km/h on all roads in the emirate due to treacherous conditions.

On the Dubai to Abu Dhabi road, police told hundreds of stranded motorists that the route was impassable and to turn off onto service roads while flood waters were cleared.

“Police have said there is too much water on the road and it will take some time to clear. Small cars will not make it through,” said Hafeez Ahmed, a Dubai resident heading to Abu Dhabi for work.

"I have been stuck on Sheikh Zayed road for more than two and a half hours."

In Dubai, there was heavy traffic in low-lying Al Quoz, which is prone to flooding, and on Sheikh Zayed Road between Business Bay and the Trade Centre while in Sharjah there was disruption across the city's roads.

Carrefour in Mall of the Emirates, one of the city's largest supermarkets, had to close due to shift workers being unable to leave their accommodation block.

At Dubai International, flights were delayed.

"We are working closely with our service partners to get back to full operations as soon as possible, however flight delays are expected to continue through the day with some cancellations and diversions to Dubai World Central (DWC)," a spokesman said.

Passengers were asked to check revised times with airlines and budget sufficient time to reach the airport.

The Roads and Transport Authority urged residents to use the metro to reach terminals one and three to avoid heavy traffic around the airport.

Two soaking wet police officers laugh as they help a driver through a pocket of water near RAK city. Courtesy: RAK Police

In Ras Al Khaimah, police and volunteers waded through water to push vehicles stuck in deep water. The road to Jebel Jais mountain was closed for a third day, police said.

A live weather chart from global forecast Windy showed the worst of the storm appeared to have passed and had hit Oman and Iran on Saturday morning.

Airport delays

Dubai International Airport urged the public to allow "significant" extra time for journeys to their terminal after flooding sparked traffic chaos.

Motorists have been told to use Metro services whenever possible, with the deluge leading to hazardous road conditions and major congestion.

"Due to heavy rainfall, DXB is experiencing flight disruption and roads are congested," read an alert issued on the airport's Twitter account.

"We advise customers to allow significant extra time to get to the airport and use Dubai Metro. Customers should check their flight status with their airline or on http://dubaiairports.ae."

Dozens of flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport were delayed.

Passengers travelling from the capital to destinations such as Paris, Phuket, Athens, Rome and Melbourne were held up as hours of heavy caused disruption to travel plans.#

Some routes were postponed for more than an hour.

A screenshot from the video showing flooding in  Airport Road heading in towards the city in Abu Dhabi. Steve Luckings / The National

School closures

Some schools are expected to be closed on Sunday as more rain is forecast.

British School – Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi told parents it would remain closed.

Dubai's education regulator KHDA also allows headteachers can take the decision to close at their discretion.

Gems Wellington International School on Sheikh Zayed Road will also close on Sunday to allow for repairs and clean up work.

Property damage

Many tenants said their homes were ill-equipped to handle the deluge.

Sabina Hammed, who lives in Emirates Living district eight, turned off the electricity when water seeped into electrical box.

“I don’t want a short circuit so we switched off the power in the house," she said.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 11 JANUARY 2020. Heavy rains in Dubai during the night caused extensive flooding at intersections within the city. Commuters battle high water along the Al Manara and Beach road intersection. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Standalone. Section: National.

In Jumeirah Park, residents said the flat roofs of their homes were waterlogged.

“Our drains cannot cope with so much water. The rooftop has become a pool," one resident wrote on the community's Facebook page.

"I’m trying to drain the water and have filled up around six big-sized buckets."

Antonio Abreu, a resident of Discovery Gardens in Dubai, woke up to find the water levels rising in the parking areas near his home and shifted his vehicle to safer ground at the Ibn Battuta mall nearby.

“Many cars are stuck. I managed to take my car out and moved the car slowly so as not to get water in the engine because it is almost like a river in some parts,” he said.

“This happens every year here when there is heavy rain. I hope they finally will solve this flooding problem.”

Additional reporting by Ruba Haza, Salam Al Amir and Chris Maxwell