Gradual resumption of traffic at Dubai airport, still flooded

Floods in Dubai after heavy rains, April 18, 202 in the United Arab Emirates (AFP/Giuseppe CACACE)

Traffic gradually resumed Thursday at Dubai airport, one of the busiest in the world, while the Gulf’s most touristy city was still slow, two days after torrential rains hit the United Arab Emirates.

The airport hopes to return to a situation “approaching normal” within 24 hours, its CEO, Paul Griffiths, told AFP, while many flights were still delayed on Thursday.

According to an airport spokesperson, 1,244 flights have been canceled and 41 diverted since Tuesday. That day, record rains, not recorded for 75 years, fell on the Emirates, causing unprecedented flooding in this desert country, and killing one person.

Extreme conditions that some experts link to global warming. “There is no surprise,” Karim Elgendy, associate member of the British think tank Chatham House, told AFP.

Scientists expect “an increase in precipitation variability”, which means more droughts, but also heavier rains, he explained.

The intensity of the phenomenon took a city by surprise, which relies in particular on the quality of its infrastructure to attract tourists and expatriates, the latter representing the majority of its population.

– “Traumatized” –

Despite the return of the sun the day after the storm, Dubai was still partially paralyzed on Thursday for the third day in a row, with many roads blocked and several metro stations closed.

Record rains in Dubai

Record rains in Dubai (AFP/Laurence SAUBADU, Jonathan WALTER)

In front of one of them, Chris Moss, a 30-year-old British man who came to spend a few days in Dubai, is desperately waiting for a taxi to take him to the airport. “I’m going there with the hope of finding my suitcase,” he said, recounting arriving Wednesday evening from London, after several hours of delay.

“But the luggage remained on the plane because the area used to accommodate the luggage was flooded,” he explains.

The airport boss, Paul Griffiths, highlighted to AFP the difficulties encountered in ensuring a return to normal. “Bringing in the equipment, personnel and all the things needed to restore operations was a huge challenge because all the roads were blocked,” he said.

“We just hope that the level of service we have been able to offer our customers will have helped to mitigate the impact (…). But it is obvious that we are deeply upset by all the disruptions,” he said. he adds.

Lost in a tram station, Julie and her husband, a couple of Australian tourists, say they spent 24 hours on the plane instead of the 14 planned.

Travelers look at the board of departing flights at Dubai Airport, April 17, 2024 in the United Arab Emirates

Travelers look at the board of departing flights at Dubai airport, April 17, 2024 in the United Arab Emirates (AFP/-)

They ended up disembarking on an isolated runway, also without their luggage, and then navigating the flooded streets of the city in search of an accessible hotel.

“It’s the start of our vacation and I want to go home,” said Julie, a retired nurse, who did not wish to give her name.

“I am traumatized (…) When the plane landed on this ground, it was deserted, there was no terminal, no other planes, I thought we had been taken hostage by terrorists,” said this septuagenarian, her voice trembling.

– Empty stalls –

Everywhere in the city, the few taxis were under attack, while main roads were still covered in several centimeters of water, as were certain residential areas.

Floods in Dubai after heavy rains, April 18, 202 in the United Arab Emirates

Floods in Dubai after heavy rains, April 18, 202 in the United Arab Emirates (AFP/Giuseppe CACACE)

Sarou Libou, a 40-year-old Indian expatriate, saw water up to her ankles in her apartment.

“We cleaned everything, but we still have no electricity,” she said, affirming that teams were deployed outside her house on Thursday to pump the water.

In supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stalls were empty, because they could not be restocked.

“Stocks are exhausted,” said the employee of a large brand who requested anonymity, adding that deliveries were expected Thursday evening or Friday morning.

On Wednesday, the President of the Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, ordered the authorities to “rapidly examine the state of infrastructure across the country” and to provide “the necessary assistance to families affected by the bad weather” .

The storm hit the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Monday and Tuesday, after hitting Oman, another Gulf country, where 21 people were killed, including several children, according to the latest report.

© 2024 AFP

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