Dubai Airport flooded within hours as storm dumped record rainfall in UAE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Heavy thunderstorms lashed the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, flooding major highways and parts of Dubai's international airport, the country's heaviest rainfall in hours.

The state-run WAM news agency called the rain “a historic meteorological event” that surpassed “anything documented since data collection began in 1949.” Before crude oil was discovered in this energy-rich nation, it was part of a British protectorate known as the Trucial States.

Vehicles drive through heavy rain on the Sheikh Zayed Road highway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

A van drives through standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.  Heavy rain lashed the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, flooding parts of major highways and leaving vehicles stranded on roadsides across Dubai.  Meanwhile, the death toll from separate heavy rains in neighboring Oman rose to 18, with many more missing as the sultanate braces for the storm.  (AP Photo/John Gambrell)

A van drives through stagnant water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

According to weather data collected at Dubai International Airport, the rain started late Monday, leaving Dubai's sand and roads drenched with about 20 millimeters (0.79 inches) of rain. The storm intensified around 9 a.m. local Tuesday and continued throughout the day, bringing heavy rain and hail.

By late Tuesday, 142 millimeters (5.59 inches) of rain had drenched Dubai in more than 24 hours. An average year sees 94.7 millimeters (3.73 in) of rain at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest hub for international travel and long-haul carrier Emirates.

At the airport, when the plane landed, the taxiways were waterlogged. The airport halted arrivals on Tuesday night and passengers struggled to reach terminals through floodwaters covering surrounding roads.

One couple, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to speak out freely in a country with strict laws that criminalize critical speech, called the situation at the airport “absolute carnage.”

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“You can't get a taxi. People are sleeping in the metro station. People are sleeping in the airport,” the man said on Wednesday.

They got a taxi closer to their home, 30 kilometers (18 miles) away, but flooding on the road stopped them. A bystander helped their carry-on over a highway barrier, and bottles of gin they picked up from the duty free went flying.

Dubai International Airport acknowledged Wednesday morning's flooding had left “limited transportation options” and affected flights as flight crews were unable to reach the airport.

“Recovery will take some time,” the airport said on social platform X. “Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through these challenges.”

Police and emergency workers made their way slowly through the flooded streets of Dubai. Lightning flashed across the sky on Tuesday, striking the top of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The city's driverless Metro rail stations were disrupted and flooded.

Schools across the UAE, a confederation of seven sheikhdoms, were closed ahead of the storm and government employees are working remotely if possible. Many workers stayed at home, and while some went out, the unlucky ones had their vehicles blocked by deeper-than-expected water on some roads.

Officials sent tanker trucks to streets and highways to clear the water. Some houses were flooded, forcing people to bail out their homes.

The country's hereditary rulers did not provide the nation with an overall estimate of damage or injuries, with some sleeping in their flooded vehicles on Tuesday night. A 70-year-old man has died after his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters in the country's northern emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, police said.

Fujairah, an emirate on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, saw the heaviest rainfall of 145 millimeters (5.7 inches) on Tuesday.

Officials canceled school and the government reinstated remote work on Wednesday.

Abandoned bus stations in pouring rain as the sky turns green after a storm hits Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.  Heavy rain lashed the UAE on Tuesday, flooding parts of major highways and leaving vehicles stranded on roads across Dubai.  Meanwhile, the death toll from separate heavy rains in neighboring Oman rose to 18, with many more missing as the sultanate braces for the storm.  (AP Photo/John Gambrell)

An abandoned bus station stands in pouring rain as the sky turns green as a storm hits Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

A man tries to work on an SUV stuck in standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.  Heavy rain lashed the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, flooding parts of major highways and leaving vehicles stranded on roadsides across Dubai.  .  Meanwhile, the death toll from separate heavy rains in neighboring Oman rose to 18, with many more missing as the sultanate braces for the storm.  (AP Photo/John Gambrell)

A man tries to work on his SUV stuck in standing water in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

Rain is uncommon in the dry, Arabian Peninsula nation of the UAE, but does occur sporadically during the cold winter months. Many roads and other areas are flooded due to lack of regular rainfall due to lack of drainage.

Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia also received rain.

In neighboring Oman, a sultanate located on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, heavy rains have killed at least 18 people in recent days, according to a report on Tuesday by the country's National Committee for Emergency Management. About 10 schoolchildren were swept away in a vehicle with an adult, prompting national condolences from rulers across the region.

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