Storms disrupt traffic and tennis in Dubai

Heavy rain, thunder and lightning strikes the Emirates, with some of the weekend's biggest outdoor attractions halted by the elements.

ABU DHABI // Heavy rain, thunder and lightning struck the Emirates last night, with some of the weekend's biggest outdoor attractions halted by the elements. Downpours in the early evening led to near-impossible driving conditions on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, with sections several inches under water. Heavy flooding also struck one of the lower floors of Dubai Mall, only days after a leak in the aquarium closed parts of the mall, with pools of water spilling into clothes shops.

Some drivers in Dubai, even those in 4x4s, pulled onto the hard shoulder or took shelter beneath overpasses, waiting for the heaviest rain to pass. The rain left pools of water up to 15cm deep. In some areas, underground car parks flooded and construction equipment, including plastic road barriers, floated into the carriageway. "I've been in Dubai for five years and that's the worst weather, the heaviest rain, I've been caught in," said Marc Lyons, a graphic designer from Britain. "I drive a big car, but that was scary."

The men's singles final of the Dubai Tennis Championships, between Novak Djokovic and Mikhail Youzhny, was called off because of a heavy downpour and will resume today. Djokovic leads 7-5 2-0. The storms struck the outskirts of the capital, but only briefly affected those living on the island. Heavy winds, rain and a spectacular display of fork lightning provided a dramatic closing for the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show at Yas Marina last night. Sections of marina suffered several power cuts during the evening.

Earlier, sandstorms struck both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, reducing visibility to a few hundred metres in some areas.