Flooding causes chaos in Saudi Arabia and Qatar

Schools were closed and major gridlocks on the road snarled traffic as seasonal rains in the Gulf caused heavy floods.

Vehicles are seen submerged in water on a flooded motorway west of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Fayez Nureldine / AFP Photo
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RIYADH // Seasonal rains triggered floods in Saudi Arabia and Qatar on Wednesday, killing one person in the Saudi city of Rimah.

In Saudi Arabia, schools were closed for a second day on Wednesday as rain continued to fall on Riyadh, flooding some streets and forcing drivers to abandon their cars.

One person died in Rimah, northeast of the city, said the civil defence agency which reported that 72 vehicles had been rescued in the Riyadh region with their occupants unharmed.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency said the rains also struck the city of Buraydah, some 320 kilometres northwest of Riyadh, as well as the surrounding Qassem province.

About 10 cars were submerged under about two metres of water in a motorway underpass in the Labban district on the capital’s western outskirts.

Workers were trying to drain the floodwaters into tanker lorries as a light rain fell.

Roads in the city centre were unaffected, although traffic moved along the main King Fahad Road even more slowly than usual.

Some side streets were partly flooded elsewhere in the desert city of 5.7 million, which is dry and sunny for most of the year. Other parts of the kingdom have also been soaked this week.

At least eight people died in flooding last week in the Medina and Jeddah areas of western Saudi Arabia.

In neighbouring, heavy flooding in Qatar caused major gridlocks on the roads and school closures on Wednesday.

Overnight rain made many roads near impassable for commuters amid reports on social media that Doha’s Hamad international airport was affected, due to leaks at the estimated $17 billion (Dh62.4bn) building which opened last year.

The heaviest rain — 66 millimetres, according to the Qatar meteorology department — fell around the airport but Hamad international said that flights were operating normally despite the weather conditions.

The interior ministry urged drivers to “be cautious” in the rainy conditions, while the US embassy shut down due to the weather. Its offices would not open again until next week, the mebassy said.

Qatar, host of the Football World Cup 2022, is well-known for its fierce summer temperatures which will force the tournament to be played instead in November and December.

Countries on the Arabian Peninsula have seen rain in recent days as the seasons change across the Gulf.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse