x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Rain, rain, and drains can't take the strain

Infrastructure fails to handle downpour as residents are forced to deal with flooded roads, leaking ceilings and power blackouts.

Rain caused chaos in Sharjah with cars submerged on many roads in the city.
Rain caused chaos in Sharjah with cars submerged on many roads in the city.

Flooding caused by heavy rain on Saturday disrupted life in Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates yesterday, with more storms predicted to hit today and tomorrow. Sharjah recorded the most rainfall of 36.2 millimetres on Saturday night, according to a forecaster at the Dubai Meteorological Office at the Dubai International Airport.

The forecaster said the rain, which was caused by a trough of low air pressure from Saudi Arabia, "really wasn't that much", but the lack of drainage infrastructure meant roads in Sharjah remained waterlogged yesterday. Sharjah Municipality managed to drain the King Abdul Aziz, Rolla and King Faisal areas by midday, but roads in the industrial area resembled rivers, with a number of vehicles half submerged.

A police spokesperson said officers had had to rescue people from their cars, but did not say how many were helped. "The rain was too horrible. I felt like I was driving a motorboat and not a car," said Seif Kazibwe, 30, a Kenyan living in Sharjah. Ibrahim al Jarwan, the head of the meteorological office in Sharjah, predicted more rain in the emirate today and cloudy skies tomorrow. The waterlogged roads in Sharjah prompted Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority to divert traffic on Emirates Road to alternative routes such as Al Ittihad, Beirut, Damascus and Dubai Bypass roads.

Hussain al Banna, the assistant of the RTA emergency and crises team, said about 100 employees and inspectors were deployed to ensure the smooth flow of traffic. "A large number of water tankers have been used to pump out water from various parts of the emirate," Mr al Banna said. He said more than 8 million gallons of water were carried away in more than 300 trips by the tankers, and all the accumulated water was cleared by 1pm.

In Ajman, the rains caused blackouts in areas including Julf, Rashidiya, Karama and Sawan on Saturday night. The electricity supply was restored after about two hours except in Rashidiya, where it resumed only yesterday morning. The industrial area road linking Ajman and Sharjah was fully submerged and patients calling at GMC hospital in Ajman had to wade through water to enter the hospital. Mohammed Amiri al Muhairi, the head of Ajman Municipality's roads department, said a team had been set up to identify the causes of the flooding and find solutions.

He said the municipality had set up an emergency team to drain the roads and assist drivers stranded in their cars. A toll-free hotline, 800026, was set up for people facing serious problems with flooding. At the Gulf Medical University in Ajman, almost half the students at were unable to attend lectures yesterday morning due to the flooding. "There were floods everywhere in Ajman, where I stay during the week, and even more in Sharjah," said Ahmed Salem, 25, a British student at the university. "The cars wouldn't start or move because of the rain. I stayed at home, where all I heard all night was thunder, rain, and the sound of sirens from all the accidents."

Ali Sohail, 20, from Iran, said he arrived late for class because of water "half a car deep" on sections of Emirates Road. In Umm al Qaiwain, residents said the rain and thunderstorms were the worst in recent memory. In the Shababiya area, many residents were seen clearing water from their homes with buckets. Abdul Sarmad, an Egyptian resident of Shababiya, said his ceiling started leaking as he was watching news of the earthquake in Chile. "We moved our beds from where it was leaking and started praying to God that it did not increase," he said.

Despite the inconvenience, many UAE residents welcomed the rains. "Rain is mercy from Allah. Whenever it comes, we have to celebrate," said Mohammed al Hammadi, a resident of Dubai. Dozens of people from neighbouring emirates drove to Ras al Khaimah to watch Wadi al Baih fill with water, even though a large section of the road leading there had been washed away. Among them were Irfan Ullahrezwan, 22, and his friend Abdulla Fazal, 21, both Islamic law students, who went to the wadi after morning prayers.

"The date farms in RAK need the water in the earth, it's so important for us," said Mr Fazal. "The people living here are so happy for this rain." * Reporting by Jen Gerson, Praveen Menon, Anna Zacharias, Yasin Kakande and Ola Salem