DUBAI // On most days as a hotel catering manager, Simon Poulose is busy ordering food and helping to organise banqueting events, conferences and outdoor catering.
However, this week, with mop and brush in hand, he was one of a small team of workers from the Marriott Courtyard hotel in the Green Community deployed to offer free services to flood victims, helping them return to some semblance of normality.
The area was one of the worst hit by last week’s storms that ravaged the UAE, made worse by a overflowing lake that flooded scores of homes, and the hotel itself.
A week on and, thanks to days of hard work from chefs, waiters and porters, life there is almost back to normal. Each day, seven or eight hotel staff are going out to help in whatever way they can.
Mr Poulose, 51, from India, said the flooding was the worst he had seen in his 13 years in Dubai.
“This work was very different to my normal job but, like everyone else, I was happy to help where I could,” he said.
“There were some old people who had been flooded and were not getting help from anywhere else. They were so happy to see us. We arrived at 8am and worked all day helping to clear things up.
“They were really suffering as they could not manage on their own, or lift furniture out of the way.”
Workers helped clear water from 12 flats in the first two days and distributed letters to all other homes in the community offering further help with cleaning, sanitising and moving furniture.
Hotel manager Alex Fonfe said staff were only too willing to step in.
“The hotel is at the centre of Green Community, so we are a hub for the people who live here,” he said.
“Many of the residents use our hotel to socialise and for special occasions, so we have got to know them all personally. We have all been affected, with almost 190 people here working at the hotel we knew we could give something back to the community. It has all come together very well.”
Flooding is not uncommon in the hotel when there is heavy rain, Mr Fonfe said, but the damage caused last week was unprecedented.
As water poured into the hotel’s basement and pool area, guests were quickly moved to other hotels nearby. Some residents have returned to the Marriott Executive Apartments, an area left unaffected by the floods but operations there were unlikely to be restored to full capacity until at least late April.
“Everyone was sweeping the water out but when the lake began overflowing, we knew there was little we could do,” Mr Fonfe said.
Shelly Babbar, 28, from India, manages the hotel’s human resources operation.
“We saw the volume of devastation at our hotel, so knew it would be just as bad in people’s homes so wanted to help,” she said.
“The people were overwhelmed at first, they did not expect us to come and help. They were very grateful.”
Residents were pleased with the help.
“They didn’t moan and were happy, cheerful, talkative, polite and helped me for over two hours,” said one Terrace Apartment resident.
“They dismantled damaged furniture and helped me remove it from the apartment. They continued to deep clean the garden area, including the patio and windows.”
Another resident, who declined to be named, said: “None of them were part of official cleaning teams, so deserve to be recognised. Regardless of their salaries, it doesn’t state in their contracts to come here and to be so helpful, polite and lovely.”