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Record flooding in Dubai grounds flights; airport working to fully resume operations

People queue at a flight connection desk at the Dubai International Airport, after flooding in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024.
People queue at a flight connection desk at the Dubai International Airport, after flooding in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024.

Numerous flights have been grounded at the international airport in Dubai following heavy rainfall that flooded runways while overwhelming drainage systems in the United Arab Emirates.

The airport is considered the world’s busiest when it comes to international travel, and officials said Thursday they need another day for the airport to come close to full operational capacity.

"Once operations are back to normal, we will assess the damages and would be able to give [a] figure for the size of losses," Dubai Airports COO Majed Al Joker told Al Arabiya TV on Thursday.

The announcement follows a two-day closure since record rain hit the nation. After more than 142 millimeters, or 5.59 inches, of rainfall soaked Dubai by the end of the day Tuesday, outgoing travelers were prevented from checking in for their flights. The order was lifted Thursday.

The flooding was called "a historic weather event" by state media agency WAM, adding that it surpassed "anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949."

The storm quickly overwhelmed Dubai's unequipped drainage systems, flooding entire neighborhoods and parts of highways. Schools will remain closed until next week. While official damage information has yet to be released, at least one person died from the floods, according to The Associated Press.

Abu Dhabi's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said Wednesday that authorities would "quickly work on studying the condition of infrastructure throughout the UAE and to limit the damage caused."

The floods raised suspicions among some that Dubai's cloud seeding influenced the deluge. Cloud seeding is a practice in which small planes are flown through clouds, dispersing chemicals to increase the likelihood of rainfall.

Experts say it is not likely that cloud seeding was solely responsible for the floods, as the storm had been forecast well in advance.

Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said on the social media platform X, "Crises reveal the strength of countries and societies." He noted, "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."

Scientists have attributed a rise in catastrophic natural disasters like Dubai's flooding to climate change. According to the United Nations, flood-related disasters have risen 134% since 2000 compared to the previous 20 years.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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