x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Floods hit Saudi capital, three missing and dozens rescued

Three people reported missing, dozens assisted after being trapped when heavy downpours trigger flash floods in Riyadh.

A car drives through a flooded street in northern Riyadh after heavy rains cause floods and traffic jams. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
A car drives through a flooded street in northern Riyadh after heavy rains cause floods and traffic jams. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

RIYADH // Rare heavy downpours triggered flash floods in the Saudi capital on Sunday forcing schools and universities to close and prompting calls by the authorities for citizens to remain indoors.

At least three people were reported missing, the state news agency SPA reported quoting the civil defence spokesman Colonel Abdullah Al Harithi.

He said authorities assisted dozens of people trapped by the floods, a rare occurrence in the kingdom’s capital.

Heavy rains, accompanied by thunderstorms, have lashed Riyadh since late on Saturday triggering flash floods in several districts and cutting off power in the city’s north, residents said.

Col Al Harithi urged Riyadh citizens, estimated at more than five million people, to stay away from rivers, valleys and flooded tunnels while the education ministry ordered schools and university closed.

Saudi Arabia rarely sees heavy rainfall and religious leaders often organise prayers for rain.

But in May last year about 20 people were killed in flooding that swept parts of Saudi Arabia, which had not experienced such a high volume of rainfall for 25 years.

And in 2011, around 10 people were killed in floods in Jeddah, where 123 people also perished in floods in 2009.

The inability of Jeddah’s infrastructure to drain off flood waters and uncontrolled construction in and around the city were blamed at the time for the high number of victims.

The national weather service warned of more storms in Riyadh and other parts of the kingdom on Monday and Tuesday.

* Agence France-Presse