x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Accidents ‘every 2 minutes’ in Dubai as rain wreaks havoc across UAE

Poor weather also delayed Sharjah’s Clusters of Light show until Sunday. It was initially meant to run from March 26 for a week.

A man walks across a saturated sand lot under a cloudy, moody sky in Mohammed bin Zayed City. Gloomy, rainy conditions yesterday and on Tuesday evening kept police response teams and municipality workers busy. Silvia Razgova / The National
A man walks across a saturated sand lot under a cloudy, moody sky in Mohammed bin Zayed City. Gloomy, rainy conditions yesterday and on Tuesday evening kept police response teams and municipality workers busy. Silvia Razgova / The National

There was an accident about every two minutes on Dubai’s roads in hazardous conditions caused by Wednesday’s downpours, police say.

Dubai Police’s command and control centre received 5,722 phone calls between 9pm on Tuesday and 1pm Wednesday.

In that time there were 407 crashes reported because of the rain, with major delays causing problems in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Discovery Gardens and Dubai Marina, where a lorry overturned shortly after 7am.

“Motorists are used to driving in the dry weather on the dry pavement, then all of a sudden the rain comes,” said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Zafeen, director of Dubai Police traffic department.

“This is the issue here … they do not switch easily from dry to wet. When it is difficult and they are faced with a car braking suddenly in front of them, sometimes they put the foot on the brake but because of the wet the car does not respond.

“It takes some time for the brakes to lock and for the car to stop, then guess what? Accidents happen.”

Police across the UAE were inundated with calls from thousands of people affected by Wednesday’s downpours, which played havoc with traffic as motorways flooded.

Officers and emergency crews were kept busy responding to accidents from Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday in the heavy rain. And municipality workers worked all day to pump away flood water.

The Abu Dhabi Police operations room answered 1,040 traffic-related calls from the early hours of Wednesday until noon, with 816 accidents in Abu Dhabi and 224 in Al Ain.

On Tuesday officers received 2,156 traffic calls, with 1,828 incidents in Abu Dhabi and 328 in Al Ain.

Flooding caused problems for people living in Al Reef, with delays affecting traffic on Al Samha Bridge.

Brig Gen Omar Al Shamsi, director of the command centre at Dubai Police, urged drivers to keep their windshields, windows and mirrors clean to ensure maximum visibility.

The Roads and Transport Authority also warned drivers about the weather, and posted advice on its Twitter account.

“Never drive through moving water if you can’t see the ground. You could be swept right off the road,” the RTA tweeted.

Commuters in Sharjah and Ajman also awoke to traffic chaos as rain flooded main roads and highways between both emirates.

The main Al Wahda-Ittihad and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed roads were gridlocked for hours as drivers struggled in the poor conditions.

Sharjah Police issued warnings on social media while images from the central control room were broadcast live on local TV to keep the public updated on the weather and traffic conditions.

Col Sultan Al Khayal, director of public relations and media, urged drivers to slow down in the wet.

“Our warnings go to mostly the big trucks and small vehicles on highways not to overtake in dangerous ways or change lanes abruptly, and ensure they leave enough space between vehicles,” Col Al Khayal said.

He said motorists who were in minor accidents should move their cars off the road to clear the way for traffic as they waited for the police.

Municipality workers spent the day pumping water from the worst hit areas of Sharjah and Ajman.

Yahya Al Reyaysa, director general of Ajman Municipality, said about 70 water pumps and 40 tankers were busy removing water from streets.

Not everyone was upset by the rain.

“Rains are supposed to be a blessing, and no matter how much waiting and pain they cause me on the roads I will still look at them as a blessing,” said Hossam Mohammed, who lives in Sharjah and was caught in the traffic jams.

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