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Clean-up begins after torrential downpour turns desert city to mud

Dubai, a city in the desert proud of its futuristic gloss, is busy clearing its waterclogged roads and drying out flooded homes two days after a record storm made a year’s rain fall in a day.

Apr 19, 2024, updated Apr 19, 2024
An abandoned vehicle stands in floodwater caused by heavy rain with the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, seen on the background, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, April 18, 2024. The United Arab Emirates attempted to dry out Thursday from the heaviest rain the desert nation has ever recorded, a deluge that flooded out Dubai International Airport and disrupted flights through the world's busiest airfield for international travel. (AP Photo/Christopher Pike)

An abandoned vehicle stands in floodwater caused by heavy rain with the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, seen on the background, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, April 18, 2024. The United Arab Emirates attempted to dry out Thursday from the heaviest rain the desert nation has ever recorded, a deluge that flooded out Dubai International Airport and disrupted flights through the world's busiest airfield for international travel. (AP Photo/Christopher Pike)

 

Dubai International Airport, a major travel hub, struggled to clear a backlog of flights and many roads were still flooded in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deluge.

The rains were the heaviest experienced by the United Arab Emirates in the 75 years that records have been kept.

They brought much of the country to a standstill and caused significant damage.

Flooding trapped residents in traffic, offices and homes.

Many reported leaks at their homes while footage circulated on social media showed malls overrun with water pouring from roofs.

Traffic remained heavily disrupted.

A highway through Dubai was reduced to a single lane in one direction while the main road that connects Dubai with the capital Abu Dhabi was closed in the Abu Dhabi direction.

“This was like nothing else. It was like an alien invasion,” Jonathan Richards, a Dubai resident from the United Kingdom told Reuters.

“I woke up the other morning to people in kayaks with pet dogs, pet cats, suitcases all outside my house.”

Another resident, Rinku Makhecha, said the rain swamped her freshly renovated house she moved into two weeks ago.

“My entire living room is just like … all my furniture is floating right now,” she said.

In Dubai’s streets, some vehicles including buses could be seen almost entirely submerged in water.

Long queues formed at petrol stations.

Dubai airport had yet to resume normal operation after the storm flooded taxiways, forcing flight diversions, delays and cancellations.

Dubai Airports chief operating officer Majed Al Joker told al-Arabiya TV he expected Dubai International Airport to reach 60-70 per cent capacity by the end of Thursday and full operational capacity within 24 hours.

The airport struggled to get food to stranded passengers, with nearby roads flooded and overcrowding limited access to those who had confirmed bookings.

The storm, which hit neighbouring Oman on Sunday, pounded the UAE on Tuesday, with 20 reported dead in Oman and one in the UAE.

While some roadways into hard-hit communities remain flooded, delivery services across Dubai, whose residents are used to ordering everything at the click of a mouse, slowly began returning to the streets.

Rains are rare in the UAE and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, which is typically known for its dry desert climate.

Summer air temperatures can soar above 50C.

President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said in a statement he had ordered authorities to assess the damage and provide support to families affected by the storm.

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