Dubai airport operations ramp back up as flooding from UAE’s heaviest rains ever recorded lingers on roads


Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates struggled on Thursday recover from the heaviest rain on record never hit the desert nation as its main airport worked to restore normal operations, even as flooding still covered parts of major roads and highways.

Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, allowed global carriers to fly again at the airfield's Terminal 1 on Thursday morning. Later on Thursday, the facility said in a message posted on social media that its Terminal 3 was also reopening for flight check-in, but warned passengers to come only if their pending departure was confirmed due to “a large volume of guests in the check. – in the area.”

“Flights continue to be delayed and disrupted, so we recommend that you only come to Terminal 1 if you have a confirmed reservation,” the airport said in its series of tweets.

People queue at the flight connection desk after a rainstorm caused delays at Dubai International Airport.
People wait at the flight connection desk after a rainstorm caused severe disruption at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates on April 17, 2024.

Rula Rouhana/REUTERS

Long-haul carrier Emirates, whose operations had been struggling since Tuesday's storm, had prevented travelers flying out of the UAE from checking in on their flights as they tried to move connecting passengers. Pilots and flight crews had been struggling to get to the airport due to water on the roads. But on Thursday, they lifted that order to allow customers into the airport.

Others who arrived at the airport described waiting for hours to collect their luggage, with some simply giving up on going home or to any hotel that had them.

The United Arab Emirates, a hereditarily ruled autocratic nation on the Arabian Peninsula, typically sees little rainfall in its arid desert climate. However, forecasters had been warning of massive storms for days over the country's seven sheikhdoms. By the end of Tuesday, more than 5.59 inches of rain had drenched Dubai over 24 hours. In an average year, it rains 3.73 inches at Dubai International Airport. Other areas of the country saw even more rainfall.

Here's why less than half a foot of sudden rain in Dubai had such a big impact


The UAE's drainage systems were quickly overwhelmed, flooding neighborhoods, commercial districts and even parts of the 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road that runs through Dubai.

State news agency WAM called the rain “a historic weather event” that surpassed “everything recorded since data collection began in 1949.”

In a message to the nation on Wednesday afternoon, the leader of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, said the authorities “will work quickly to study the state of infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates and to limit the damage caused.”

On Thursday, people waded through oil-stained floodwater to reach cars abandoned earlier, checking to see if their engines were still running. Tanker trucks with vacuum cleaners also started reaching some areas outside of central Dubai for the first time. Schools will remain closed until next week.

Rain from the Arabian Peninsula
A man walks through a flood in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024.

Jon Gambrell/AP

Authorities have not offered any general information on damage or injuries from the flooding, which killed at least one person.

“Crises reveal the strength of countries and societies,” Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote in X. “The natural climate crisis we experienced showed the great care, awareness, cohesion and love for all corners of the country from all its citizens and residents”.

The flooding prompted speculation that the UAE's aggressive campaign of cloud seeding – flying small planes through clouds dispersing chemicals. with the aim of making the rain fall —may have contributed to the flood. But experts said the storm systems that produced the rain were forecast well in advance and that cloud seeding alone would not have caused these floods.

Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections, said the flooding in Dubai was caused by an unusually strong low-pressure system that brought many thunderstorms.

Climatologists have warned for years that this is human-driven climate change is feeding more extreme and less predictable weather events around the world.

Protecting the planet: the impact of climate change on severe weather


Parts of southern Russia and Central Asia have also faced unusually damaging amounts of rain and snowmelt for days, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate to higher ground and killing more than 120 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Dubai hosted the United Nations Conversations about the COP28 climate just last year

Abu Dhabi's state-linked newspaper The National, in an editorial on Thursday, described the heavy rains as a warning to countries in the wider Persian Gulf region to “betray their future on the climate”.

“The scale of this task is more daunting than it appears even at first glance, because these changes involve changing the urban environment of a region that, during the time it has been inhabited, has experienced little more than heat and sand,” the paper said. .


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