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Heavy rains bring the UAE to a standstill

In Dubai, many schools asked parents to pick up their children and close early due to the heavy rain and thunderstorms experienced

Ismaeel Naar

Published: Updated:

Heavy rains lashed parts of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, bringing airports, roads and schools to a standstill for most of the morning.

Dramatic videos posted on social media networks from the desert country showed strong winds and flooding battering parts of the the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as authorities announced airport delays, schools closed, and traffic piled up as commuters began their drive home.

See more photos and videos here: Rainstorm videos in UAE flood social media

Departure flights at Dubai's two international airports were slightly delayed due to bad weather conditions but operations were largely unaffected, the Dubai Airports operator said on Wednesday.

At the arrivals terminal of Dubai International airport, a passenger flying in from Karachi, Pakistan, told Al Arabiya English over the phone about her Emirates Airlines plane circling the air for nearly an hour and half when its pilot could not receive clearance for landing due to the severe weather conditions.

“The plane landed on time actually but we we’re circling the air for an extra hour and a half until we got permission to land. We landed on a spare landing strip and mind you this was a 737 airplane,” Alia Chughtai, a media personnel arriving from Karachi told Al Arabiya English.

“But I have to give it to them, the Emirates airlines staff and immigration staff at Dubai airport were very upbeat and efficient given the number of people arriving because of delays. But I can’t say the same for the baggage area which has been chaotic until I left the airport,” she added.

Authorities at Abu Dhabi Airport had earlier suspended flights until further notice for safety reasons, but resumed operations by the afternoon.

In Dubai, many schools had asked parents to pick up their children and close early due to the heavy rain and thunderstorms experienced.

Reports of schools requesting parents to pick their children up from school to ensure their safety also arose after traffic jams grounded many buses.

The UAE’s education minister issued an order for schools to remain closed tomorrow as well.

Heavy traffic, accidents

Heavy traffic hit Dubai's main causeways on Wednesday afternoon as commuters headed home to the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah.

Emilene Parry, a Dubai resident from the UK, was stuck in traffic for an hour during her commute at 2:30 PM local time.

“People are all keeping their hazard lights on al-Khail road [a major artery for the city’s hundreds of thousands of commuters],” she said.

“It is dangerous as one can’t tell when cars are turning and if there was an actual accident or not.”

Parry added that she had seen a car completely submerged, some roads blocked, and several minor accidents.

In another Dubai district, the British expat estimated that the depth of the water on the roads reached 40cm.

Sarah Williams, a media professional heading home, said: “We’ve moved maybe 100 meters in the past 45 minutes due to the heavy traffic.”

“The journey has been literally tripled by the cars going up the hard shoulder from behind and cutting back in further ahead,” she added.

The UAE’s weather authority, the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology, told Al Arabiya English that the unstable weather conditions in the country began on March 5.

“The unstable weather condition are expected to carry on overnight and during the day tomorrow,” the NCMS said in a statement to Al Arabiya English, adding that the weather conditions should begin to gradually stabilize on Friday.

The UAE, which is one of the world's driest countries, rarely receives rain.

(Additional reporting by Dina al-Shibeeb and Paul Crompton)

(With Reuters and AFP)