Written by 3:37 pm In the News

Gulf reels from deadly storms

Heavy rain has been battering Gulf states for two days, causing flash floods and disrupting flights in Dubai – which is home to the world’s second-busiest airport.

Gulf countries such as Oman, UAE and Bahrain have issued flood alert warnings after intense thunderstorms and substantial rainfall across the region.

High winds and heavy downpours resulted in 18 deaths in Oman, which included 10 schoolchildren swept away in a vehicle, along with the driver. Huge tailbacks snaked along six-lane expressways.

The storms hit the UAE, parts of Qatar and Bahrain overnight Monday and on Tuesday after lashing Oman. Flooding hit many areas of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, and cut off major roads, snarling traffic and leaving cars stranded. A 70-year-old man died after he was swept away in his car in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, police said.

The UAE saw record rainfall with 254 mm (10 inches) falling in less than 24 hours in Al Ain, a city on the UAE-Oman border, according to the national meteorology centre. The rainfall, which flooded streets, uprooted palm trees and shattered building facades, has never been seen in the Middle Eastern nation since records began in 1949.

One-hundred millimeters (nearly 4 inches) of rain fell over the course of just 12 hours on Tuesday, according to weather observations at the airport – around what Dubai usually records in an entire year, according to United Nations data.

The rain fell so heavily and so quickly that motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles as the floodwater rose and roads turned into rivers.

The impact of the heavy rain continued to be felt on Wednesday, with roads blocked and flights severely disrupted. Authorities and communities across the United Arab Emirates were clearing debris on Wednesday after several homes and businesses were damaged in the storm.

Emergency workers are working hard to drain flooded roads across the country.

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, stopped checking-in passengers departing Dubai until midnight. Flydubai, which partially resumed flights in the morning, said operations would not return to normal until after midnight.

Climatologist Friederike Otto, a specialist in assessing the role of climate change on extreme weather events, said it was “highly likely” that global warming had worsened the storms.

(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: AP)

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