Dubai airport urges passengers to stay away as Brits struggle to escape flood chaos

Dubai airport urges passengers to stay away as Brits struggle to escape flood chaos

Dubai International Airport has urged travellers to stay away after it was left submerged in water by record rainfall.

Thousands of UK passengers are among those suffering flight disruption after Dubai International Airport was flooded by intense thunderstorms which have lashed the United Arab Emirates.

Many planes to and from the airport - the world's busiest for international travel and a hub for the long-haul carrier Emirates - were cancelled on Wednesday.

It wrote on X: “We advise you NOT to come to the airport, unless absolutely necessary.

“Flights continue to be delayed and diverted. Please check your flight status directly with your airline.“We are working hard to recover operations as quickly as possible in very challenging conditions.”

Emirates has cancelled seven flights between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) airport and the UK, with British Airways diverting or axing four.

Some flights from the UK to Dubai have also been cancelled on Wednesday, including an 11.10am Emirates flight, and a 12.55pm British Airways flight, both from London Heathrow.

Photos and videos showed planes at Dubai airport taxiing across Tarmac that was totally submerged in water.

One passenger due to travel from Dubai to London Gatwick on Wednesday said on X she had been “sitting on board for nearly eight hours with no offer of water or food and absolutely zero communication”.

She described the situation as “shameful”.

Responding, airline Emirates wrote: “We apologise for the inconvenience. This is not the experience we would like you to share with us.” They urged the woman to contact them directly for further assistance.

Another passenger told how her plane, which was due to fly from London to Dubai on Tuesday night, was diverted to Abu Dhabi due to the weather.

Vehicles brought to a standstill by a severely flooded road in Dubai (REUTERS)
Vehicles brought to a standstill by a severely flooded road in Dubai (REUTERS)

“Still stuck in the Abu Dhabi and my transitioning flight from Dubai to my final destination has been cancelled,” she added on Wednesday.

Many flights were also delayed by several hours on Tuesday, such as one operated by Emirates which landed at Heathrow more than five hours behind schedule at 9.30pm.

Meanwhile passengers struggled to reach terminals at Dubai airport through the floodwater covering surrounding roads.

The deluge Dubai has seen in recent days is the heaviest rain ever recorded there.

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

Footage showed major motorways in Dubai submerged in water, with many vehicles underwater, and drivers and passengers forced to evacuate.

Heavy thunderstorms have wreaked havoc in Dubai (ES Composite)
Heavy thunderstorms have wreaked havoc in Dubai (ES Composite)

The extreme rain began late on Monday, soaking the sands and roads of Dubai with some 20mm (0.79 inches) of rain, according to meteorological data collected at the airport.

The storms intensified around 9am local time (6am in the UK) on Tuesday and continued throughout the day, dumping more rain and hail onto the overwhelmed city.

By the end of Tuesday, more than 142mm (5.59 inches) of rainfall had soaked Dubai over 24 hours. An average year sees 94.7 millimeters (3.73 inches) of rain at Dubai International Airport.

Dubai’s driverless Metro also saw disruptions and flooded stations.

Authorities sent tanker trucks out into the streets and highways to pump away the water. Water poured into some homes, forcing people to bail out their houses.

Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, largely shut ahead of the storm and government employees were largely working remotely if able. Many workers stayed home as well, though some ventured out, with the unfortunate stalling out their vehicles in deeper-than-expected water covering some roads.

Dubai’s hereditary rulers offered no overall damage information or injury information for the nation, as some slept into their flooded vehicles on Tuesday night.

In Ras al-Khaimah, the country's northernmost emirate, police said one 70-year-old man died when his vehicle was swept away by floodwater.

In neighboring Oman, a sultanate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, at least 18 people had been killed in heavy rains in recent days, according to a statement Tuesday from the country's National Committee for Emergency Management.

That includes some 10 schoolchildren swept away in a vehicle with an adult, which saw condolences come into the country from rulers across the region.

Fujairah, an emirate on the UAE's eastern coast, saw the heaviest rainfall Tuesday with 145 millimeters (5.7 inches) falling there.

Authorities cancelled school and the government instituted remote work again for Wednesday.

Rain is unusual in the UAE, an arid, Arabian Peninsula nation, but occurs periodically during the cooler winter months. Many roads and other areas lack drainage given the lack of regular rainfall, causing flooding.