Dubai: Unusually heavy rain flooded streets, cancelled flights and disrupted daily routines in the UAE, with authorities going all out to rescue stranded residents and working to restore services on Saturday.
In Dubai, the downpour, which had started on Friday night, reached its peak when rains fell at a rate of 150 millimetres per hour, for two and a half hours. Dubai Media Office described it as “unusually heavy rain” on its Twitter account.
Since the rains began on Thursday, Dubai Police recorded 1,880 traffic accidents – 55 of them serious.
The Dubai Police Command and Control Unit logged 51,749 emergency calls from 12pm on Thursday until 3.30pm on Saturday.
According to Brigadier Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, Director of Traffic Department at Dubai Police, there were 1,825 minor accidents due to the unstable weather. He said, ““Motorists should always keep a safe distance between cars and adjust their speed to the weather conditions… Allow extra time for your journey and check your planned route. It’s also advisable to slow down as rains make the roads slippery.”
Meanwhile, Colonel Ahmad Atiq, Director of Disasters and Crisis Management Department at Dubai Police, said that police patrols closed some roads in the emirate and diverted the traffic to alternative roads and provided tankers to pump out rainwater.
The wet weather disrupted operations at Dubai International (DXB). Travellers were advised to check directly with their airlines for more specific flight information and allow significant extra time to get to the airport.
A Dubai Airports spokesperson on Saturday afternoon said in a statement: “Currently we have seen 21 diversions to airports in the region, including Dubai World Central (DWC). There have also been 15 flight cancellations.”
Most private and public schools will be open on Sunday, authorities and school officials said on Saturday. However, a few schools, apparently those impacted more than others because of their location, said they will be closed.
Some flooded streets in the UAE were closed, with police and recovery vehicles trying to clear stalled cars. Commuters faced major delays on a number of major roads linking Dubai and Sharjah, as well as some main internal streets in both emirates.
In Dubai, traffic on Shaikh Zayed Road in both directions was temporarily diverted near the First Interchange as authorities cleared runoff water. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai closed its services centres and driving institutes until further notice. Dubai Ferry services FR1 and FR5 meanwhile faced temporary disruptions. There were delays on Dubai Bus and DXB Airport Taxi services as well.
The First Bridge (Dubai Mall Bridge) traffic was redirected to Financial Centre Road in both directions while water logging on Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road (SMBZ Rd) near National Paint Bridge towards Sharjah forced motorists to use Tripoli Street and Al Khawaneej Street towards Emirates Road.
Dubai Police tweeted Al Ittihad Road tunnel was closed towards Al Garhoud Bridge. Traffic was later diverted from Al Garhoud Bridge to Trade Centre roundabout towards 2nd Zabeel Road.
Dubai Municipality urged residents to stay safe, asking them to report any water logging by calling 800900 or through the Dubai 24/7 app.
Global Village shut
The rains also led to the closure of Global Village in Dubai on Saturday. In a statement, Global Village said: “Due to prevailing weather conditions and in the interest of comfort of guests and all partners working on site, Global Village management has decided that the park will remain closed today, Saturday, January 11, 2020. The world’s leading multicultural Festival Park and the region’s first family destination for culture, shopping, and entertainment, will re-open tomorrow, Sunday, January 12, 2020. We look forward to welcoming guests from 4pm to 12am.”
Abu Dhabi roads
Roads in the capital Abu Dhabi remained drenched until the afternoon. But traffic continued without much disruption across the city, with only a few public bus services temporarily suspended.
To ensure safety, the Abu Dhabi Police temporarily reduced the speed limit on highways to 80 kilometres per hour.
Through their social media accounts, the police also urged motorists to avoid puddles, maintain a safe distance from surrounding vehicles, and to check tires and windshield wipers before driving.
Despite the weather, the first day of classes at public schools was expected to continue as scheduled today [Sunday]. Police also issued a statement to assure that the Traffic and Patrols Directorate will ensure traffic safety. Brigadier Mohammad Al Humairi, head of the directorate, also urged motorists to drive carefully, especially in areas surrounding schools.
The Abu Dhabi City Municipality, meanwhile, urged residents to report any puddles, falling trees and damaged streetlights so that these can be quickly removed or repaired.
By Saturday afternoon, the sun was out and downpours had stopped over the city centre and its suburbs.
Sharjah Police had announced the closure of SMBZ Rd in Sharjah – a major link to Dubai. Officials had also announced the partial closure of Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bridge, to Al Badi Bridge, and the full closure of the Umm Fannain tunnel.
A small stretch of road between New Al Taawun Street and Al Ittihad Road was inundated, forcing motorists to take alternative routes in the direction of Dubai. There was also a major tailback on Sharjah Ring Road in the direction of SMBZ Rd.
No major accidents were recorded during the rains, although some minor accidents were reported, Sharjah Police said.
Across the country, people could be seen waiting for delayed public transport at bus stops. Many pedestrians helped motorists push stalled cars to the side of flooded roads. Municipality tankers pumped out accumulated water from roads and residential areas.
Police, traffic and municipality social media accounts provided frequent updates on developments. Residents too shared photos and videos of the rain and its impact.
One Twitter user, @TamaraClarke, shared a clip (“When it rains #InAbuDhabi”) of a man standing on a surfboard and using a paddle to move around in a residential area. Another video, purportedly of Ras Al Khaimah, showed camels sunk and trapped in the sands. Officials were said to have worked on rescuing the animals.