Dubai airport, city and roads still underwater from historic floods

Dubai airport, city and roads still underwater from historic floods
Dubai still under inches of water as lack of drainage drowns city. / bne IntelliNews
By Deema Kanaani in Dubai April 17, 2024

Dubai witnessed "a state of chaos" on April 17, with continued road closures and travellers urged not to come to the airport, a day after a storm accompanied by rains flooded large portions of the city.

Heavy rain has been battering Persian Gulf states, causing flash floods that have killed 20 people and disrupted flights at several of the busiest airports in the region. Flooding has been reported in several countries and emirates, including Oman, Iran, Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Al Ain in the east of the Emirates saw 254 mm (10 inches) falling in less than 24 hours. 

The operator of Dubai Airports urged travellers not to head to one of the world's busiest airports in terms of international passenger numbers except in cases of extreme necessity. Meanwhile, regional countries have cancelled their flights to Dubai International Airport.

UAE state news agency WAM quoted Emirates Airlines announcing the company's "suspension of travel procedures for departing passengers from Dubai as of 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, until midnight on April 18, due to operational challenges arising from the adverse weather and road conditions."

However, the company "clarified that it continues to process procedures for arriving passengers to Dubai and transit passengers," according to the UAE news agency.

Heaviest rains ever

The United Arab Emirates witnessed the heaviest rains ever on Tuesday, flooding parts of major highways and Dubai International Airport. Local meteorologists described the rains as a "historic weather event" surpassing "anything documented since data collection began in 1949."

Rainfall began late April 15. Storms intensified around 9:00 a.m. on April 16 and continued throughout the day, leading to more rain and hail in Dubai.

By the end of the day, over 142 mm of rain had fallen on Dubai within 24 hours.

On average, Dubai International Airport (DXB), considered the world's busiest for international travel and a hub for Emirates Airlines' long-haul flights, receives 94.7 mm of rain annually.

At the airport, long queues formed for taxi cabs, with passengers scattered around mostly sleeping while waiting for their delayed flights.

Amid the storms, the airport suspended operations for 25 minutes in the afternoon and was forced to divert incoming flights for about two hours before gradually resuming arrivals.

Karen, a tourist from the UK, wrote on her social media page that the situation at the airport was perilous on April 16, with many vehicles abandoned by their owners.

“Lots of abandoned vehicles up to their roof with water. We made it to the airport, but check-in closed,” the British tourist said on her social media page.

Residents stuck due to flooded streets

Many roads remain closed due to rainwater accumulation, with bne IntelliNews’ correspondent trapped inside their apartment building as flood waters in the central areas of the city emirate have not yet receded.

Videos circulated on social media also showed vehicles stranded on a highway connecting the emirate of Sharjah to Abu Dhabi via Dubai.

Another expat, Patrick who asked not to use his second name, in Abu Dhabi, witnessed flooding in his apartment building

Speaking with bne IntelliNews, he said, “[It] was nuts though. We had flooding on the 29th floor. Not something I ever expected!”

A man died in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, where the emirate's police wrote on X: "A citizen in his seventies died after his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters while trying to enter Wadi Asfani in Ras Al Khaimah."

Oman hit the hardest across Gulf

It pointed out that the "highest amount of rainfall was recorded in the Khatt Al Shaklah area in Al Ain (in Abu Dhabi), where it reached 254.8 mm in less than 24 hours. 
The National Center of Meteorology announced that the UAE witnessed, on April 17, the largest amount of rainfall since the beginning of climate data recording in 1949, predating the country's establishment in 1971.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Oman, 302mm of rain was recorded by the national meteorology organisation. 

Oman was hit with a deluge hitting significant parts of the Arabian peninsula country, with at least 19 people reported to have died in the floods that swept several locations. 

Authorities across the region warned of a potential for further heavy rain in the coming hours, with strong winds also expected.