Heavy floods hit Dubai, airport as Oman toll rises to 18


A flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on April 16, 2024
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Torrential rain flooded roads, homes and malls and briefly halted operations at Dubai’s airport as storms lashed the Gulf on Tuesday, after leaving at least 18 dead in Oman. The airport began diverting all incoming flights.

Dubai, the Middle East’s financial centre, was paralysed by the heavy storms that caused widespread flooding around the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Flagship shopping centres Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates both suffered flooding and water was ankle-deep at at least one Dubai Metro station.

Roads and residential communities also suffered heavy flooding in scenes repeated around the oil-rich Emirates, a desert country where rain is an unusual event. Schools were shut across the UAE and were expected to remain closed on Wednesday, when further storms, including hail, are forecast.

Flights diverted

The world’s busiest air hub for international passengers, which had been expecting more than 100 flights on Tuesday evening, earlier briefly halted its operations in the chaos caused by the storm.

“Due to the continued exceptional weather event currently being experienced in the UAE, Dubai International is temporarily diverting inbound flights due to arrive this evening… until the inclement situation improves,” a Dubai Airports spokesperson said.

An SUV passes through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

An SUV passes through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
| Photo Credit:

Departures will continue, said the spokesperson, who earlier warned that roads around the airport have suffered major flooding and urged passengers to use public transport.

Airport operations were earlier suspended for 25 minutes before resuming. Unconfirmed images on social media showed planes taxiing across an apron flooded with standing water.

The Asian Champions League football semifinal between the UAE’s Al Ain and Saudi side Al Hilal, due to be hosted in Al Ain, was postponed for 24 hours because of the weather.

Residents urged to take precautions

Some inland areas of the UAE recorded more than 80 millimetres (3.2 inches) of rain over the 24 hours to 8:00 am, approaching the annual average of about 100mm. The weather board “urged residents to take all the precautions… and to stay away from areas of flooding and water accumulation” in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Both the Emirati and Omani governments have previously warned that climate change is likely to lead to more flooding. Individual weather events are often difficult to link to climate change, but scientists say that it increases both the likelihood and strength of extreme weather events.

Bahrain hit too

Bahrain was also hit by heavy rain and flooding after being pummelled by thunder and lightning overnight.

The storms descended on the UAE, Bahrain and areas of Qatar after passing over Oman, where they caused deadly floods and left dozens stranded.

A child’s body was recovered on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 18 with two people missing, emergency authorities told the official Oman News Agency.

Nine schoolchildren and three adults died when their vehicles were swept away in flash floods, the news agency reported on Sunday.


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