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Dubai airport diverts flights as ‘exceptional weather’ hits city

Dubai's roads were badly hit by the heavy downpours
Dubai's roads were badly hit by the heavy downpours - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File CHIP SOMODEVILLA
Dubai's roads were badly hit by the heavy downpours - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File CHIP SOMODEVILLA
Talek HARRIS with Rasha AL EBRAHIM in Manama

Dubai’s major international airport began diverting all incoming flights on Tuesday as heavy rains lashed the city, causing widespread flooding.

The world’s busiest air hub for international passengers, which had been expecting more than 100 flights on Tuesday evening, earlier briefly halted its operations in the chaos caused by the storm.

Dubai, the Middle East’s financial centre, has been paralysed by the torrential rain that caused floods around the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and left 18 dead in Oman on Sunday and Monday.

“Due to the continued exceptional weather event currently being experienced in the UAE, Dubai International is temporarily diverting inbound flights due to arrive this evening… until the inclement situation improves,” a Dubai Airports spokesperson said.

Departures will continue, said the spokesperson, who earlier warned that roads around the airport have suffered major flooding and urged passengers to use public transport.

Airport operations were earlier suspended for 25 minutes before resuming. Unconfirmed images on social media showed planes taxiing across an apron flooded with standing water.

Similar scenes were repeated across Dubai and elsewhere in the UAE as the desert country, better known for its arid climate and intense summer heat, reeled from the storm.

Flagship shopping centres Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates both suffered flooding and water was ankle-deep in at least one Dubai Metro station, according to images posted on social media.

Roads and residential communities also suffered heavy flooding and many residents reported leaks from roofs, doors and windows.

– ‘It scares me’ –

Schools were shut across the UAE and were expected to remain closed on Wednesday, when further storms are forecast. Dubai’s government also extended remote working for its employees into Wednesday.

The Asian Champions League football semi-final between the UAE’s Al Ain and Saudi side Al Hilal, due to be hosted in Al Ain, was postponed for 24 hours because of the weather.

Some inland areas of the UAE recorded more than 80 millimetres (3.2 inches) of rain over 24 hours to 8:00 am, approaching the annual average of about 100mm.

The weather board “urged residents to take all the precautions… and to stay away from areas of flooding and water accumulation” in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Both the Emirati and Omani governments have previously warned that climate change is likely to lead to more flooding.

Individual weather events are often difficult to link to climate change, but scientists say that it increases both the likelihood and strength of extreme weather events. 

Bahrain was also hit by heavy rain and flooding after being pummelled by thunder and lightning overnight.

“I like to play in the rain, but for the first time it scares me,” said nine-year-old Ali Hassan, as he helped his mother clear water from outside their house in Bahrain’s capital Manama.

The storms descended on the UAE, Bahrain and areas of Qatar after passing over Oman, where they caused deadly floods and left dozens stranded.

A child’s body was recovered on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 18 with two people missing, emergency authorities told the official Oman News Agency. 

Nine schoolchildren and three adults died when their vehicles were swept away in flash floods, the news agency reported on Sunday.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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