x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Near-record rainfall hits UAE

Six people are killed on the roads as downpours lead to flooded homes and waterlogged roads after some places see more than double the December average of rain.

At least six people were killed and many more were injured on the country's waterlogged roads yesterday, as the UAE was hit by near-record rainfall. The worst-hit area was Al Foah, a suburb of Al Ain, where 146.6mm of rain fell between Friday and yesterday evening. Over the same period, Abu Dhabi saw 104.2mm. In Dubai 26mm fell between midnight and 6pm yesterday. Over the past three days, Dubai has had more than double the December average of rain. Police warned motorists to slow down and take more care as torrential rain overwhelmed storm drains. Severe flooding on some stretches of highway increased the risk of aquaplaning and in places brought traffic to a standstill as drivers slowed to negotiate stretches of rainwater.

The weather delayed thousands of commuters and there were reports of power outages and of villas and offices being flooded. In Dubai, two people were killed and three critically injured when a bus and a lorry collided on Emirates Road early in the afternoon. Up to 35 other people sustained minor injuries in the crash, police said. The Roads and Transport Authority said it had not closed any roads, but minor accidents did cause gridlock in some areas. While traffic on the Sheikh Zayed and Al Khail roads ground to a halt as standing water blocked entire lanes, the situation was even worse on smaller local roads, some of which were so flooded that only 4x4 vehicles could pass. The Old Town, Media City and Al Barsha districts were badly affected with most roundabouts and junctions under about 30cm of water.

With sand and gravel from construction sites washing over roads and lane markings submerged under water, driving conditions were even more hazardous. In the capital, three people died and a further eight were injured because of the rain, according to WAM, the state news agency. Col Hamad al Shamsi, the director of Abu Dhabi traffic police, said most serious accidents had occurred off the island. Police closed Al Mafraq bridge for a short time and diverted traffic because of pools of water on the bridge. A deep puddle covered all lanes of Sheikh Zayed Road near Shahama, snarling the morning commute. Khalifa City was particularly hard hit, with roads waterlogged. In some places, especially near villas under construction, water blurred the division between streets. In some cases, side streets were entirely inaccessible, with road signs and trees half-submerged after toppling over. In the Remaila district of Al Ain, a 25-year-old man died after his Lexus flipped on to its roof. Although figures were not available for yesterday, police in Ras al Khaimah reported 86 traffic accidents resulting in seven injuries on Saturday, all caused by weather. In Sharjah, 92 minor weather-related road accidents were reported over the weekend, according to the police, who have consequently deployed more patrols and officers on main roads and at busy junctions. The Meteorological Office based at Dubai International Airport predicted that the showers and thunderstorms will have cleared away by this morning, leaving brighter weather for the next few days. newsdesk@thenational.ae