ABU DHABI // One breakdown caused a traffic jam that sparked gridlock on all the capital's major roads last night. Thousands of vehicles became stuck for hours when the failure of several sets of traffic lights compounded the problem. Queues began growing around 3.30pm. By the time rush-hour traffic hit the streets, at around 5pm, the already crowded roads became jammed. Helicopters were spotted heading towards the Tourist Club area, as were several ambulances with their sirens sounding.
By 6pm, the areas around The Corniche and Airport Road, Fourth Street and Salam Street, Hamdan Street and Sheikh Zayed the First Street, as well as streets in the Tourist Club area, were at a standstill. Many travellers gave up on the roads and opted to walk the rest of their journeys. Ramesh Menon, who works at Abu Dhabi Mall, said the traffic had been bad since 4.30pm and vehicles were stuck at all the junctions outside the mall.
Police set up traffic cones on Airport Road at Hazza bin Zayed (11) Street, blocking access to Al Falah (9) Street. At junctions with Muroor Road, officers directed traffic out of the city to avoid longer queues. A municipal roads official said a vehicle had broken down "somewhere in the city". "A breakdown caused the whole thing," said the official. He said it was a large vehicle but would not say if it had been carrying goods.
The municipality was adjusting traffic signals to try to clear the jams, the official said. The police's central operations department said traffic lights were down and, due to an "extremely large number of cars on the street, every single road was overcrowded". An officer in the department described the scene as "congestion everywhere, all the streets congested". He said the traffic lights that had failed had been fixed and patrols were directing traffic.
firstname.lastname@example.org * With additional reporting by Kareem Shaheen