x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

After the deluge, the UAE cleans up

After thunderstorms over the weekend left four people dead and areas submerged, the clean-up operation began.

Jamal Knonji, a worker at Al Shafaa Tyres in Sharjah, tackles the flooding caused by the weekend storms.
Jamal Knonji, a worker at Al Shafaa Tyres in Sharjah, tackles the flooding caused by the weekend storms.

SHARJAH // It was the morning after the night before. After thunderstorms over the weekend left four people dead and areas submerged, the clean-up operation began. In Sharjah, which saw the highest rainfall 36.2 millimetres of any emirate on Saturday night, business owners in the industrial area were yesterday counting losses running to tens of thousands of dirhams from storm damage as weather forecasters warned that more was to follow.

Residents who found themselves trapped in their homes by rainwater were evacuated by rescuers as police deployed about 70 officers to deal with flood emergencies. The Dubai Meteorological Office last night issued a severe weather warning which predicted further thunderstorms, heavy rain, strong winds and possible hail in parts of Dubai and the northern emirates today. Yesterday, although the skies were clear, huge lakes of rainwater remained in warehouses and shops and on roads in Sharjah's industrial zone, while cars found themselves stalling as they ploughed through the deepest pools.

Several businessmen whose stock was destroyed accused the local authority of failing to help alleviate the floods. The municipality strongly denied this, saying that 150 of its drainage vehicles were working around the clock to clear flood water. "It's like the municipality is saying it would remember us when the rainy season comes to an end. No municipality drainage official or vehicle has come here for now two days," said Jamal al Khonji, the owner of Al Shorafa Tyres Trading in Emirates Road Industrial Area.

Mr al Khonji said the storms had so far cost him about Dh150,000 (US$41,000) in damages and lost business. He was afraid the municipality's "continued neglect" would see those costs rise. "I lost one tyre-repair machine; it submerged in water and was damaged beyond repair. Also there were 25 cartons of engine oil in my shop, all perished. I also lost two glass cylinders." Customers were still unable to enter Mr al Khonji's workshop yesterday; the reception area remained flooded.

Baid Khan, a Pakistani who runs Baid Khan shoe shop in the same part of the industrial zone, said his losses stood at around Dh80,000. The rain destroyed most of his stock. "Look at all my shop and shoe cartons," he said. "Nothing is left and no one can compensate me for all this loss." Houshang Khonji, the owner of al Duraka clothes shop, said he had lost about Dh40,000 in garments damaged or soiled by the rains. He was afraid the damage to his stock might dent his reputation and took the surviving clothes home with him last night to protect them.

Ali Abdrahman, the Emirati owner of Haseel Building Materials store in al Nahda, said the storms had been his worst ordeal in 20 years as a businessman. He said the rain and high winds had destroyed more than 500 bags of cement, 500 boxes of tiles and 700 hundred bags of tile adhesives and grout. "I don't know what to do today if it rains, I will have to ask some technician to put something on the door that can stop water flooding into the store," he said.

Obedi al Serkal, who owns a spare-parts warehouse, said he had lost about Dh50,000 during the storms. "My concern is no drainage tank is coming to help us with the water," he said. "People are even removing the water from their houses using their hands." A spokesperson for Sharjah Municipality said workers had already completely drained the flood water in several densely populated areas. "The municipality has dedicated 150 drainage vehicles, all working around the clock to ensure complete drainage in the shortest time possible," he said.

He urged residents to call the municipality's toll-free 993 number to report flood-related emergencies. Col Mohammed al Madhloom, the head of the Sharjah Police operations room, said his officers had rescued many residents trapped in their houses by surrounding flood water. Many more homes have had their power supply cut off as a precaution after three people were electrocuted while standing in flood water.

Several main roads in Taraf, Al Rafaa and Tarafan remained closed yesterday, causing huge delays for motorists heading home from Dubai last night. Some commuters said their homeward journey had taken more than three hours. ykakande@thenational.ae