Global Economy

After the deluge, resilience, recovery, and damage assessment in Dubai

Three days after unprecedented rains battered parts of the UAE and caused flash floods, the ultra-modern city of Dubai is slowly limping back to normalcy though thousands of travellers continued to suffer as flight schedules were still disrupted on Friday. Shahid Ahmad, an Indian engineer living here for over two decades, was preparing to drive to the Dubai International Airport to receive his wife coming from India on Wednesday.
As pitch-dark clouds converged over Dubai skies, as forecast in the weather advisory, he was worried but just in time, he received a call informing him of the flight’s cancellation.
His wife was saved from the unprecedented deluge that lashed Dubai and neighbouring sheikhdoms starting Monday night and through Tuesday. But thousands of others, including India’s best wrestlers, suffered harrowing times as rains flooded the ultra-modern city turning its roads into rivers.

Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, is hoping to be back on a normal schedule within 24 hours, local media reported on Friday.

The arid desert of the Arabian Peninsula is, it sees very little rainfall. But by the end of Tuesday, more than 142 millimetres of rainfall soaked Dubai over 24 hours compared to the average yearly rainfall of 94.7 millimetres at Dubai International Airport, leading to massive water-logging.

On Friday, roads across the city that had turned into fast-flowing rivers started crawling back to normalcy, albeit at a slow pace. Those driving on the streets of Dubai said they encountered partial closures but could reach their destinations. Some roads remain submerged even while the civil authorities continue efforts to drain out the main highways. Flights were cancelled and passengers suffered innumerable hardships.

India’s best wrestlers, Deepak Punia and Sujeet Kalakal, will miss the Asian qualifiers as they reached the Kyrgyzstan capital late due to Dubai’s deluge.

Stranded at the Dubai airport, the duo and their Russian coach Kamal Malikov and physio Shubham Gupta, slept on the floor and had no access to proper food, according to Sujeet’s father Dayanand Kalakal.

A total of 1,244 flights were cancelled, 41 diverted at Dubai International (DXB) until Thursday. The National Ambulance, part of the National Guard Command, handled 1,426 urgent ambulance calls in 48 hours. Schoolchildren were moved to remote learning while working from home returned for residents.

In the residential areas, things were improving slowly. Shahid Ahmad’s residential community was marooned and he and scores of others continued working from home. “Even though there is not much water logged inside the community, exit and entrance to the community are still closed,” Ahmad told PTI.

There are hundreds and thousands of Indians in the entire UAE and several of them volunteered in rescue and relief work.

The Indian Association of Sharjah pitched in with relief work. According to its members, the Association members turned their offices into flood shelters.

“Malayalees in Sharjah and Dubai have formed special WhatsApp groups to help fellow Indians. Al Madinah shopkeepers too came forward to help vehicles stuck in the flood,” a television report said.

The Sharjah branch of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), a supportive organ of Indian Union Muslim League, immediately swung into action as the office bearers started receiving calls for help.

According to a Facebook post by the Sharjah KMCC, its members helped stranded people, brought them over and accommodated them at their members’ homes and nearby hotels.

Salil Jamkhedkar, who works in a local group company, and has been staying in Dubai since 1999, was actively involved in rescue work.

From 3 pm till well after midnight, he was involved in rescue operations for 10 people between Airport Terminal 2 to various areas, back to the airport and then again to some other areas. “It was almost 90 kms over these hours driving through flooded roads. Of those I dropped, one was wading his way through water,” Jamkhedkar said.

One of his Muslim colleagues returned from Lucknow after Eid. His colleague with his wife, 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, were all stranded at the airport for five hours.

“When I finally dropped them home and saw the sense of relief on their faces, all my pains and tensions of driving through troubled waters vanished. They all had tears in their eyes. He called me repeatedly to thank me for my help and compared it to Hanuman. Imagine, when a Muslim thanks in this way!!!” he said.

Jamkhedkar said he saw people walking back home in flooded streets for over 10 hours. There were hardly any taxis on the roads.

The local RSS teams too were active and provided accommodation in different areas for those who were unable to return home, he said.

As chaos reigned, stories of heroic deeds, unbridled bravery, and enormous survival instincts unfolded. Through Tuesday and Wednesday, people stuck in their cars or stranded on over-flooded roads received help from strangers.

A local media report reported how a couple of waitresses at a hotel here knocked at the door of a lady occupant, asking for clothes to manage yet another night at the hotel.

Considering the UAE’s reliance on tourism, footfall and the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) sector, it will take some time to count the enormous cost of weather disruption. Officials said it will start with quantifying the loss and perhaps come up with a master plan to safeguard against inclement weather in the future.

The recently opened Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple in Dubai was closed due to severe weather conditions, but, a post from its official X account said, “Prayers were offered by the Swamis and volunteers for all those affected by the disruptions and for the early restoration of normalcy” at the time of a special aarti on Thursday night to celebrate the birth of Bhagwan Shri Swaminarayan.

Meanwhile, the Indian embassy in the UAE on Friday issued an advisory for the inbound Indian passengers travelling to or transiting through Dubai International Airport to reschedule non-essential travel till operations normalise.

On Friday, Emirates Airline said on its X platform that it would again halt local check-in for passengers travelling on its flights until early Saturday to “support operations recovery from the recent bad weather at our Dubai hub.”


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