File photo taken in August shows Makkah drenched by heavy rains. Image Credit: SPA

Manama: Heavy rain has caused havoc in parts of the Red Sea city of Jeddah, causing chest-high floods, turning roads to small rivers and bringing back painful memories of the tragedy of 2009.

A video clip that went viral on social media showed tunnels and streets flooded with water, drowned cars, standstill traffic and people struggling to move on with their routines.

One man was pictured standing on his car surrounded with water, trying to figure out his next move to reach safety.

The Centre for Crises and Disasters in Makkah Region closed a number of roads in Jeddah on Tuesday due to heavy thunderstorms accompanied by active winds that limited vision, Saudi news site Al Marsad reported.

The centre listed the names of roads, roundabouts and tunnels to be shut down for traffic until the level of the flood recedes. 

It also warned people to strictly avoid going down to the valleys or approaching floodwaters and water pools as a safety precaution.

The education district in Jeddah and Makkah had shut down schools and colleges pending the heavy outpour expected to last until Thursday.

The National Centre for Security Operations at the Ministry of the Interior said that 10,902 calls were received by "911" operations in Makkah from the beginning of the rain until noon on Tuesday.

The centre said that most of the calls were to enquire about the roads and streets that could be used for traffic.

It added that the Civil Defence dealt with 241 rescue cases and that three men who were trapped inside Al Salam Tunnel were rescued.

Classes suspended

School and university classes in the Makkah region were suspended on Tuesday due to severe weather conditions, the General Directorate of Education announced in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the King Abdulaziz International airport in Jeddah has also announced on Tuesday that delays may be expected in both inbound and outbound flights due to inclement weather. Passengers were told to contact airline companies for more information.

The Saudi Ministry of Education directorate in Jeddah said the decision to suspend classes is to ensure the safety of students, it said in a tweet.

The General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection sent out a bulletin warning bad weather conditions in various parts of the Kingdom, with sandstorms blowing all over Qassim region and the western parts of Riyadh.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) stated that education officials in Taif and Jeddah also issued separate announcements suspending schools at all levels, also citing the weather authority's bulletin.

Rain and thunderstorms are expected in Madinah and Makkah regions, including the coastal areas. Rains are also expected over the mountains of Jizan, Asir and Baha regions, according to Jeddah English daily Arab News.

The weather bureau also said that heavy-to-moderate rain associated with dust and sand storms also prevailed over Tabuk, the Northern Border, Al Jouf and Hail regions.

The Directorate of Civil Defense urged residents to move away from places that are usually flooded and to avoid going near wadis and riverbanks.

The port of Jeddah announced that navigation resumed at 10:55 am, following a drop in the speed of the wind to less than 25 knots per hour and improved visibility.

Saudia, the national airline, said that it would not charge its passengers who were unable to catch their flights in Jeddah and would exempt them from all restrictions and fines.

"Due to the heavy rainfall in Jeddah this morning, some flights have been delayed. In recognition of the circumstances of our guests, those who will not be able to catch our flights because of the weather and would like to change their bookings or cancel them and get refunds for their tickets will be exempted from all restrictions and fines," the company said.

Several Saudis called for stringent action against officials who have allowed the rainfall to cause havoc in the city that greatly suffered in 2009 when dozens of people were killed or went missing in the worst floods to hit the city in almost three decades.

The tragedy triggered lengthy court cases and deep controversies and residents who were hit really hard hoped there would be no repeat of the drama.

In late 2009 and 2015, the Kingdom’s western region saw deadly floods triggered by heavy rains.

Some of those who died were trapped inside their vehicles that were swept away by flash floods.