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Dubai floods bring travel to halt after heaviest UAE rainfall on record

The National Center of Meteorology said the downpour was the largest volume of rainfall the UAE has experienced since data collection started 75 years ago.
Dubai floods

Heavy thunderstorms hit the United Arab Emirates and the wider Gulf region on Monday and Tuesday as the desert city of Dubai was drenched in more than a year and half’s worth of rain that flooded major highways, damaged buildings and disrupted flights.

The rain began on Monday night and by Tuesday evening, more than 142mm (5.6 inches) had soaked Dubai. As rain is uncommon in the UAE even during the winter months, there is a lack of infrastructure to handle floods, which are expected to become more frequent due to human-driven climate change as the warmer atmosphere retains more moisture before a downpour.

The National Center of Meteorology said in a statement that the downpour was the largest amount of rainfall the UAE has experienced since data collection started 75 years ago. Weather observers recorded that 100mm (3.9 inches) of rain fell in just 12 hours Tuesday, Dubai's typical total for an entire year, according to United Nations data.

Videos shared on social media show submerged cars on the streets. Roads were so waterlogged that many people had to abandon their vehicles in the floods.

At least one person was killed, a 70-year-old man who was swept away in his car in Ras Al Khaimah emirate, police said.

The world’s busiest international airport, Dubai International Airport, announced Wednesday it had experienced “significant disruption.” The airport, which sees only 94.7mm (3.7 inches) of rain in a typical year, said that the floods had left “limited transportation options” and cabin crews and technical staff could not reach the airfield.

“Recovery will take some time,” the airport said on the X platform. “We thank you for your patience and understanding while we work through these challenges.” It advised people not to come to the airport unless “absolutely necessary.”

The Emirates airline, whose main hub is at the airport, suspended check-in for flights from 8 a.m. Wednesday until midnight Thursday as hundreds of passengers were impacted by the travel chaos.

Other airlines also had issues as many of the runways were completely waterlogged. Budget carrier flydubai canceled all flights through 10 a.m. local time Wednesday. One widely shared social media post shows a flydubai aircraft attempting to land on a submerged runway.

Other social media videos show water pouring through a shopping mall and engulfing homes.

Schools across the UAE were shut before the storms and government employees were asked to work remotely if possible.

Events in the city were canceled, including the Middle East Energy conference, which was due to take place at Dubai's Trade Center.

The thunderstorm traveled across Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. While there was less rain in these countries than in the UAE, flooding killed at least 18 people in Oman, including at least nine schoolchildren and their driver when their vehicle was swept away in Samad A’Shan on Sunday.