Dubai airport re-opens after UAE suffers heavy rain

Operations at Dubai International Airport remain severely disrupted after heavy rains battered the United Arab Emirates and neighbouring countries.

The storm pounded the UAE on Tuesday, flooding roads and the sections of the busy international airport.

Flash floods have now killed 20 people in Oman and one in the UAE.

Some inbound flights resumed on Thursday, but on the whole Dubai International Airport, a major travel hub, is struggling to function.

Many air passengers have told the BBC of scenes of “chaos” at the world’s second-busiest airport, with people unable to travel on their booked flights.

Other “very anxious” and disoriented passengers, some travelling with young children, have posted on social media saying that despite confirmed bookings, their tickets are not being processed, because “check-in/bag drop/passport control [are] not open.”

Authorities at Dubai International Airport said on Thursday that they had started receiving inbound flights at Terminal 1, used by foreign carriers, but that outbound flights continued to be delayed.

They later announced that check-in was open at Terminal 3 for Emirates and flydubai flights.

But they warned that a large number of travellers were waiting to check in and long delays were expected.

Jonathan Finchett, who is at Dubai International Airport, described “apocalyptic scenes” as he saw families barricading themselves behind luggage trolleys and a man appearing to collapse after what he described as a “stampede” towards check-in.

Mr Finchett, from Chester in the UK, landed in Dubai on Tuesday where he was due to catch a connecting flight to Manchester in England.

But when he arrived at the airport he found out no flights were leaving Dubai because of the storm, and was told his flight had been rescheduled for 3:00 local time (00:00 BST) on Thursday, organised by the airline Emirates – the single largest carrier at the airport.

Mr Finchett said he was advised to arrive four hours before his new flight’s check-in time because of the situation at the airport, but at half past midnight he was told “there would be no flights going from Dubai” and check-in for their flight would open at 09:00 on Thursday instead.

Mr Finchett then found out his flight had in fact departed for Manchester at 07:00, while he was stuck in the airport unable to get passed check-in. “It had left without us being able to check-in and get on it,” he told the BBC in frustration.

He said he was then instructed to join a queue to re-book his flight, but “there were hundreds of people stampeding towards this, like a crush”.

Mr Finchett said women were screaming saying “they couldn’t breathe”, and police and paramedics were called because a man seemed not to be breathing as a result of the “stampede”. Space was created around the man and the queue was closed by police, Mr Finchett said.

After eventually speaking to Emirates customer service, Mr Finchett was told “the next available flight to any UK airport was 28 April and they’re not willing to put us up in any accommodation”.

He has since booked a flight to Madrid on Sunday in the hope that he can make his way on to the UK from there and is paying to stay in a hotel near the airport in the meantime.

Dubai International Airport said it was “endeavouring to do its best to support passengers”.

“This is the heaviest rainfall the UAE received in 75 years and we’re doing all we can to get operations back to normal,” a statement said.

“As much as possible, we’ve been providing necessary assistance and amenities to affected guests but due to road blockages, it’s taken longer than we would have liked.”

As of Thursday, the next available economy seat on Emirates from Dubai to London Heathrow was on a flight on Wednesday 24 April, according to the airline’s website.

Emirates directed the BBC to its latest update when contacted about the soonest date Emirates passengers heading to the UK could leave Dubai. In the statement, the airline said it had lifted check-in suspension for Dubai departures, with customers encouraged to check-in online. However, Emirates said it was “aware that many are still waiting to get on flights”. The airline did not specify the next available date UK-bound passengers could leave Dubai.

Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, early on Thursday, officials urged people to go to the airport only if they had confirmed bookings.

The head of Dubai airport, Paul Griffiths, said: “It remains an incredibly challenging time. In living memory, I don’t think anyone has ever seen conditions like it.”

Anne Wing, a British tourist who was with her husband and three children hoping to fly to London Heathrow, told the BBC: “It’s horrific, we are squashed in like animals – it is dangerous and inhumane.”

She added: “Passengers were shouting and rioting at the connection desk, there were no staff to be seen.”

She said her family had not eaten since lunchtime, and all that had been provided were some “small cartons of water”.

Airport authorities say that the staff are facing difficulties to get food to stranded passengers as all the roads leading to the airport are blocked by flood waters.

As many road closures are still in place, some motorists remain trapped in vehicles or stranded on the roadside due to the rising water levels around them.

Al Arabiya TV reported that in Ras al-Khaimah a 70-year-old man died after his vehicle was swept away by strong current.

Emergency services worked to clear the waterlogged roads on Thursday to assess people trapped in traffic, offices and homes.

The main road that connects Dubai with Abu Dhabi – the capital of the UAE – was closed in the Abu Dhabi direction.

The airport, which last year served more than 80 million passengers, second only to Atlanta in the United States, warned recovery would take “some time”.

The surrounding roads remain gridlocked because of overcrowding with people trying to reach the airport.

On Wednesday, about 300 flights were cancelled and hundreds more were delayed.

The UAE recorded its heaviest rainfall in recorded history. Up to 259.5mm (10.2in) of rain fell on the usually arid country on Tuesday.

The state-run news agency called the rain “a historic weather event” that surpassed “anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949”.

Roads to hard-hit communities and facilities remain flooded and footage on social media showed dozens of submerged vehicles and long traffic jams. Most supermarkets and shopping malls also remain closed, and home delivery services are largely out of action.

Although the UAE reportedly had sunny spells on Thursday, authorities have warned that more thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds were forecast in the region. In Oman, more than 1,400 people have been evacuated to shelters, while schools and government offices have been closed.

The UAE’s president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered a review of the country’s infrastructure impacted by the severe weather. He asked authorities to assess the damage and provide support to affected families, including transferring them to safe locations.

Videos online nevertheless showed people wading through floodwater to reach their abandoned cars to check if they would start.

In a conciliatory message on X, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said: “Crises reveal the strength of countries and societies… and the natural climate crisis that we experienced showed great care, awareness, cohesion and love for every corner of the country from all its citizens and residents.”

Source: BBC News

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