Heavy Rain and Floods Disrupt Dubai Airport and Kill 19 in Oman


Record levels of rainfall have brought cities in the United Arab Emirates and Oman to a standstill, with at least 19 people killed in Oman and flights being diverted from Dubai’s airport.

In the U.A.E., authorities urged all residents to stay at home, as videos showed cars submerged on gridlocked highways and planes leaving waves in their wake as they taxied down flooded runways in Dubai. In Muscat, Oman’s capital, flash flooding turned streets into raging rivers.

Experts said the extreme deluge was likely the result of a regular, rainy weather system being supercharged by climate change.

The storm first hit Oman on Sunday, causing widespread flash flooding and leading officials to close schools and government offices. On Wednesday, the heavy rains had eased, although the authorities warned residents to remain cautious.

Several areas of Oman received over 230 millimeters, or about 9 inches, of rain between Sunday and Wednesday, according to the country’s National Committee for Emergency Management. The average annual rainfall in Muscat, the nation’s capital, is about 100 millimeters, although other parts of the country can receive more rain.

By Wednesday morning, 19 deaths had been confirmed by the emergency management committee, including an infant. Ten of the dead were schoolchildren who were swept away in a vehicle with an adult, according to The Associated Press. Some schools remained closed in Oman on Wednesday, and some government employees were told to work from home.

The U.A.E. had its largest rainfall event in 75 years on Tuesday, the government said on social media. One area received 255 millimeters, about 10 inches, of rain in less than a day, the country’s National Center of Meteorology said.

On Wednesday, officials at Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, urged travelers not to go to the airport, with flights continuing to be delayed and diverted. Operations were briefly suspended because of the storm. Emirates, the national airline, said it was suspending check-in services for passengers departing from the airport until midnight.

“Recovery will take some time,” the airport said on social media. “We thank you for your patience and understanding while we work through these challenges.”

At Muscat International Airport, some flights were delayed and canceled, while others were operating on time, said Yousef al-Habsi, an information adviser for the airport.

Although some have speculated that recent cloud seeding efforts by the U.A.E. — using chemicals to increase the chances of clouds producing rain — could have contributed to the extreme weather, scientists said this was very unlikely.

“Rainfall enhancement could not cause that kind of increase in rainfall,” said Steven Siems, an expert in cloud seeding at Monash University in Australia, adding that any effects from cloud seeding would have been “marginal” at most.

The extreme weather appeared to be the result of a relatively normal weather system bringing rain that had been turbocharged by ocean and atmospheric warming, said Janette Lindesay, a climate scientist at the Australian National University. “It’s highly likely that global heating has played a role in the intensity of the event,” she said.

A low pressure system moving over the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf of Oman had interacted with parts of the jet stream, a river of wind that moves from west to east over temperate latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, producing rainfall, Professor Lindesay said.

That in itself was not unusual. But with rising air and sea temperatures escalating ocean evaporation, there was more moisture in the atmosphere, she said, which had likely contributed to a bigger and more intense deluge of rain.

“In many parts of the world we’re seeing fewer rainfall events that produce moderate to light rainfall,” she said. “More dry days, but on the days with higher rainfall, it rains more heavily.”

Jenny Gross contributed reporting.

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