ABU DHABI // Roads in the capital were gridlocked with traffic yesterday after several accidents added to chaos during the morning rush period. Drivers took hours to navigate many of the city's busiest roads; the most affected areas were Hamdan, Electra and Salam streets, and the Tourist Club area.
Police said the main cause of the congestion was a sand-laden lorry that overturned on Salam Street at the Hazaa bin Zayed intersection. "The truck flipped because it was overloaded, exceeding the maximum amount allowed by law," said Col Hussein al Harethi, the director of Abu Dhabi traffic police. By the time the lorry was removed with a crane and the spilled sand cleared from the road, heavy congestion had built up on the road, police said. Col al Harethi attributed other crashes and delays to heavy traffic caused by the new school year, construction and road diversions for development projects.
The road opposite Al Rahba hospital was closed for an hour and cars were diverted to the slip road after a pedestrian was hit. Police said they could not confirm the man's condition. A crash near Musaffah bridge involved five cars but there were no serious injuries. Police said all the extra traffic had cleared by noon. "As soon as we received reports for the problems, we increased traffic patrols, and traffic officers moved fast to sort the problems," the colonel said.
In a press release, the Municipality said it adjusted traffic signals by giving more time to the green signal at the main intersections. But in many cases, police also manned the intersections, causing confusion. When lights turned green, some cars drove through despite police instructions to halt. Celine Abdo said she was caught in traffic in the city centre on her way to work in the Tourist Club area near Abu Dhabi mall. Her journey seemed normal at first. She left her house at 7.20am and drove past the Al Diar hotel in Mina. Then she hit trouble: it took her more than an hour to go from the Al Diar Capital Hotel to Le Meridien Hotel, where she left her car.
"It was really unusual," she said. "They should do something." Police were stationed at every major intersection in the city in an attempt to keep cars moving by 9am, but Ms Abdo said she did not see any during her journey. At the junction of Najda and Defence roads, police directed long queues of cars through the intersection. Motorists trying to avoid the traffic on Muroor by driving through the Al Nahyan camp area created gridlock on the side streets.
At Al Falah and Najda, police tried to prevent cars from heading towards the Corniche and the Tourist Club area, directing them instead towards Muroor. A harried police officer ran back and forth in the junction, trying to head off renegade drivers. At the junction of Muroor and Electra, traffic was at a standstill. One driver got out of his car and smoked an entire cigarette before the vehicles around him began to move. Some motorists used the hard shoulder to create an extra lane - also choked to immobility. Desperate pedestrians ran among the cars looking for empty taxis.
Outside Abu Dhabi mall, the roads were mostly clear because of efforts elsewhere in the city, but a large queue built up at the empty taxi stand. Six boys from Abu Dhabi Indian School, waiting on an Electra Street kerb for their bus to arrive, said they had been there since 7.30am. Three hours later the bus had yet to arrive. Classes began at 8.30. Abishek Bhatia, 10, was not upset by the wait. "We don't want to go to school - we are just playing," he said. Some commuters dealt with the stress of gridlock through sarcasm on Twitter.
"This traffic's so bad, I might have to start paying mawaqif for being on this road so long," wrote Adnan Khalid. Few problems resurfaced during the afternoon rush period, although a two-car accident on Khaleej al Arabi street near the Maqta Bridge flyover backed up traffic for several kilometres at about 4.30pm. No injuries were reported.