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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Dubai’s record rain floods expensive homes and halts flights

Cars drive in a flooded street following heavy rains in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday. Dubai, the Middle East’s financial centre, has been paralyzed by the torrential rain that caused floods across the region and left 18 dead in Oman on Sunday and Monday.  (Ahmed Ramazan/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Verity Ratcliffe and Kateryna Kadabashy Bloomberg News

Dubai flights have been severely disrupted and cars were left stranded on flooded roads after record rainfall over the past day brought the city to a standstill.

The United Arab Emirates experienced its heaviest downpour since records began in 1949, Dubai’s media office said in a statement. It caused chaos for residents as water entered the city’s expensive homes and underground car parks, left some buildings without power and resulted in widespread flooding even a day later.

One person died after being swept away by flash floods in the north of the country, the National newspaper reported. In neighboring Oman, at least 18 people have died in recent days as the heavy rains caused flooding, AP reported, citing a statement from the country’s National Committee for Emergency Management.

Dubai airport, one of the world’s busiest, is suffering from “significant disruption,” it said Wednesday on X. Online departure boards showed most arrivals or departures as canceled or delayed as of 1 p.m. local time. Emirates, the biggest international airline, said it was halting all check-ins for passengers for the day.

The heavy rains across the desert nation came after cloud seeding. The UAE has been carrying out seeding operations since 2002 to address water security issues, but the lack of drainage in many areas can trigger flooding, including in cities such as Dubai that’s a global financial and business center.

The Gulf state’s National Center of Meteorology dispatched at least seven seeding planes from Al Ain airport between Sunday and Monday, the government agency said. That technique involves implanting chemicals and tiny particles – often natural salts such as potassium chloride – into the atmosphere to coax more rain from clouds.

With global warming threatening a surge in heat-related deaths in the UAE, Dubai’s media office on Tuesday dubbed the downpours “rains of goodness,” despite the flooded houses and overflowing swimming pools.

The latest storms followed heavy rains earlier this year that had also caused flooding and traffic snarls. Dubai’s government told its employees to work from home again on Wednesday due to the weather conditions and urged private employers to do the same. Schools have been directed to remain closed.

People took to social media to share updates on the aftermath of the weather. Some videos showed cars being swept off roads, one showed the ceiling of a shop collapsing as water inundated one of Dubai’s most popular malls, while another claimed to have footage of a collapsed road near the eastern city of Al Ain.

There was some rainfall elsewhere in the region as well. Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia saw the heaviest showers in the country in the past 48 hours. Riyadh was hit with sand and wind storms that at one stage led to near-zero visibility but otherwise faced dry conditions on Tuesday.

Saudi’s flagship carrier Saudia and budget airlines Flynas scrapped two dozen flights between them, according to FlightAware. Some early Wednesday flights from Bahrain’s main airport were canceled but departures resumed mid-morning, according to the Bahrain International Airport website. Qatar’s Hamad International Airport was also operating normally.