x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE malls mop up after weekend of wild weather

Shopping centres flooded, trees uprooted and roads pooled with water after high winds, dust clouds and heavy rains lash the country.

Some of the mess at Ibn Battuta Mall on Sunday. Developer Nakheel says the mall’s roof will have waterproofing carried out. Christopher Pike / The National
Some of the mess at Ibn Battuta Mall on Sunday. Developer Nakheel says the mall’s roof will have waterproofing carried out. Christopher Pike / The National

The weekend's wild weather has damaged shops across the UAE, uprooted trees and flooded roads, with insurers warning it could be days until the true cost is known.

Dubai Municipality received 498 calls from worried members of the public as high winds battered the UAE's coast, kicking dust into the atmosphere and turning the sky an eerie sepia.

Staff at Ibn Battuta Mall were forced to cordon off areas that were flooded and mop up excess water after heavy rain on Sunday night damaged the mall roof.

The roof of the mall, which has been affected by flood water several times, will have new waterproofing soon, developer Nakheel said.

Water was still leaking through damaged sections of the ceiling throughout the mall yesterday afternoon.

"It seems to happen every time it rains in this mall," said a worker in Starbucks.

The coffee shop had two large holes in the ceiling at its entrance and about half of it was cordoned off.

"We think the water came in about 3am, so when we arrived at 7am it was flooded and we had to clean it up," the worker said.

A shop assistant at Sun and Sport said: "We had a lot of water coming down near the centre of the shop. Usually when this happens it's just a few drops but there was quiet a lot of water this time."

This is the second time in five months shops in the mall have been affected by collapsed ceilings due to heavy rain. Millions of dirhams of damage were caused in December.

A Nakheel spokeswoman said: "A contractor for the complete re-waterproofing of Ibn Battuta Mall has been appointed and is on-site.

"We have informed all of our tenants of our re-waterproofing schedule, which will prioritise the areas most affected.

"In the meantime, we apologise for the inconvenience caused to our tenants and customers."

The municipality said its sewerage and irrigation network department, together with other authorities, had finished cleaning the city after the storm.

Khalid Badri, the director of the municipality's contact centre, said most of the 498 calls were related to blocks in traffic caused by fallen trees and flooding.

Insurers warned the cost of the damage will not be known for a few days.

"I haven't heard there has been any serious problems but we won't know the full scale until a few days after the storm, as people call in insurers," said Fareed Lutfi, secretary general of Emirates Insurance Association.

In Sharjah's Industrial Area, fears and water levels were subsiding yesterday as no major floods were reported.

Most business owners said Sharjah Municipality had greatly improved the drainage system and that the work had passed the test after this bout of rain.

"We could not believe their assurances that floods would not come again," said Ahmed Al Arabi, a tyre shop worker.

"But we have seen all roads clear and their emergency teams on the move, with their water pumps almost in all areas."

Yahya Al Reyasa, the director general of Ajman Municipality, said the eight emergency teams cleaning the emirate confirmed that all roads were, by yesterday afternoon, free of flooding.

"Traffic is smooth on all the main roads and our teams are now concentrating on clearing the residential areas," Mr Al Reyasa said.

Car-washing bays in Sharjah and Ajman were full yesterday, with some owners waiting more than an hour for their vehicles to be washed.

Several taxi drivers and company vehicle drivers were also seen washing their cars in pools of rain water.

They said they were responsible for cleaning the vehicles so it saved them money by not taking them to a car wash.

Despite heavy rain in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, not much damage was reported.

The environment, health and safety division of Abu Dhabi Municipality said it had not received reports of any damage at construction sites, while malls also survived unscathed.