Unprecedented floods hit the desert country this week, killing at least one and bringing Dubai city to a standstill. Dubai International Airport, a major travel hub, has resumed operations, albeit only partially.

UAE: Dubai scrambles to resume flights after deadly floods

rmt/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters) || Shining BD

Published: 4/19/2024 7:46:40 AM
Dubai's roads and highways were inundated following unprecedented floodingImage: Rula Rouhana/REUTERS

Dubai's roads and highways were inundated following unprecedented floodingImage: Rula Rouhana/REUTERS

The United Arab Emirates struggled on Thursday to bring life back to normal, after an unprecedented flood inundated its futuristic Dubai city, flooding roads and highways and rendering its airport inoperable.


Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, partially resumed flights on Thursday, for the first time since the major storm hit the city and other UAE areas on Tuesday.

Some major roads and highways in the city remained closed due to the flooding, including partially the road connecting Dubai to the capital Abu Dhabi.

Airport traffic gradually resumes

The unprecedented storm led to the cancellation of some 1,244 flights and the diversion of 41 others on Tuesday and Wednesday. Flight crews and pilots struggled to reach the airport, and runways were flooded. 

Dubai Airports Chief Operating Officer Majed Al Joker said he expected Dubai International Airport to reach 60% to 70% capacity by the end of Thursday and become fully operational within 24 hours.

Many passengers were forced to sleep at the airport, with their flights canceled and the roads outside flooded. On Thursday, the airport urged passengers to only go if their flights were confirmed.

Emirates, the UAE national carrier, warned that the airport "remains congested" on Thursday after some flights resumed.

"There may still be delays to arriving and departing flights," an Emirates statement said. "Our teams are working hard to restore our scheduled operations as soon as possible."

Nearly 200 departures were listed as delayed or canceled on Dubai airport's website on Thursday.

Many passengers were forced to sleep at the airports, with their flights canceled and the roads outside floodedImage: -/AFP/Getty Images

Flooded roads, highways

Life slowly began returning to normal on Thursday, despite the water still flooding many major roads and highways.

People began checking on cars they abandoned earlier to see if their engines still ran.

Tanker trucks with vacuums made their way to areas outside of Dubai's downtown core. Schools remained shuttered until next week.

Residents of the major financial hub were trapped in traffic, offices and homes, with many reporting leaks at their houses. Shopping malls, which Dubai is famous for, were overrun with water pouring from roofs. Vehicles could be seen fully submerged in water.

Vehicles could be seen heavily submerged in the water flooding Dubai's streetsImage: Amr Alfiky/REUTERS

"This was like nothing else. It was like an alien invasion," Jonathan Richards, a Dubai resident from Britain told the Reuters news agency. "I woke up the other morning to people in kayaks with pet dogs, pet cats, suitcases all outside my house."

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

What caused this unprecedented storm?

The storm saw a year's rainfall in a day, leaving at least one dead. The state-news agency WAM called it "a historic weather event" that surpassed "anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949."

Rainfall is rare in the UAE and the greater Arabian Peninsula region, where the climate is hot and dry.

One Dubai resident said the flooding was akin to an 'alien invasion'Image: AHMED RAMAZAN/AFP/Getty Images

Some questioned whether the UAE's frequent cloud seeding process, which is aimed at artificially prompting rainfall, could have caused the unprecedented rains. However, climate experts said global warming was the likely culprit.

Climate change has recently caused extreme weather events worldwide, with researchers forecasting that it will cause heightened temperatures, increased humidity and a greater risk of flooding in parts of the desert Gulf region.

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, where the infrastructure was not built to accommodate heavy rainfall, to "climate-proof their futures."

"The scale of this task is more daunting [than] it appears even at first glance, because such changes involve changing the urban environment of a region that for as long as it has been inhabited, has experienced little but heat and sand," the newspaper said.

Dubai hosted last year the United Nations climate summit COP28.

Shining BD