Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Fourth day after disastrous storm, flash floods – Oman and UAE grapple with aftermath

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman are still grappling with the aftermath of a record-breaking storm that brought much of the region to a standstill.

Heavy rains and flash floods have swept parts of the Gulf region, killing at least 20 people in Oman and one person in the UAE.

In Oman, the death toll included at least nine school children and their driver whose vehicle was washed away by the floodwaters in Samad Al Shan on Sunday.

The National Committee for Emergency Management said rescue teams were still searching for missing people.

Police and soldiers were deployed to the hardest-hit province of Ash Sharqiyah North to transport citizens out of flooded areas, according to state media.

At Muscat International Airport, some flights were delayed and cancelled, while others were operating on time, said Yousef al-Habsi, an information adviser for the airport.

Authorities and communities across Oman and UAE were clearing debris on Thursday after several homes and businesses were damaged in a rare torrential storm.

The storm, which hit Oman on Sunday, pounded the UAE on Tuesday, flooding roads and causing hours-long gridlock as rainwater inundated homes.

Flooding trapped residents in traffic, offices and homes as the UAE recorded its heaviest rains in the 75 years that records have been kept, authorities said.

In Dubai, operations at the airport, a major travel hub, remain disrupted after Tuesday’s storm flooded the runway, resulting in flight diversions, delays and cancellations.

The airport said on Thursday morning it had resumed receiving inbound flights at Terminal 1, used by foreign carriers, but that flights continue to be delayed and disrupted.

Emirates, the single largest carrier at the airport, said it would resume checking-in passengers in Dubai at 9 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Thursday, delaying the restart from midnight by nine hours.

The airport struggled to get food to stranded passengers with nearby roads blocked by flood waters, and because of overcrowding limited access to those who had confirmed bookings.

In the UAE, authorities have told government employees and students to stay home while waterlogged roads are cleared.

The Omani government has also given administrative staff in public and private sectors the day off due to the bad weather conditions in several provinces, while remote work was recommended in other parts of the sultanate.

Residents were urged to evacuate to shelters if they felt they were in danger or asked by authorities to do so.

Climate experts say rising temperatures caused by human-led climate change are leading to more extreme weather events around the world, such as the storm that struck the UAE and Oman.

“It’s likely that the storm was kind of supercharged by climate change because there’s just more moisture available in the air for any storm system to then precipitate out,” said Colleen Colja, a climate scientist at Imperial College London.

Researchers anticipate that climate change will lead to heightened temperatures, increased humidity and a greater risk of flooding in parts of the Gulf region.The problem can be worsened in countries like the UAE where there is a lack of drainage infrastructure to cope with heavy rains.

A UAE government agency that oversees cloud seeding – a process of manipulating clouds to increase rainfall – denied that any such operations took place before the storm.

The governments of UAE and Oman had ordered authorities to assess the damage and provide support to families impacted by the storm.

Source: Reuters, Al Jazeera


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