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A hard rain's a-falling in the Gulf

Storms from the Arabian Sea bring heavy rain to Oman and the UAE [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2016

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Oman and the UAE are experiencing annual heavy rainfall which has inevitably led to flooding. So why do Gulf cities always flood when it rains?

Aircraft grounded, schools closed and roads waterlogged. Oman and the UAE have again been hit with heavy rain from an electrical storm which has predictably brought life in parts of the eastern Arabia Peninsula to a grinding halt.

Abu Dhabi airport cancelled flights as its new terminal reportedly flooded. Rain in northern Oman left a deadly toll after all schools and many universities in the sultanate were closed.

With some of the tallest buildings and finest roads in the world, on the face of it, Gulf capitals appear to be as soundly organised as anywhere else in the world.

But when the rain falls these cities reveal gaping holes in their infrastructure, which residents say desperately need plugging in.


Large parts of Muscat and other Gulf cities sit in valleys - and with no drains, rain water builds up to swamp surrounding roads and buildings.

Muscat and Abu Dhabi might look as modern as Geneva or Oslo, but their sewerage and drainage systems are on a par with the poorest parts of the developing world.

Huge stretches of Muscat's usually joyfully smooth highways have been deluged with rain water and made inpassable.

Potholes inevitably open up and sometimes snatch unsuspecting 4X4s passing through what appear to be puddles.


Homes flood and electricity pylons spark, sometimes leading to deaths by electrocution both in Oman and the neighbouring GCC.

Police and emergency services are usually stretched to their limits, with officers rescuing drivers caught up in flash floods, when usually bone-dry wadis temporarily transform into fast-flowing rapids.

Some officers no doubt relish the opportunity to show countrymen their abilities, serve their communities and save many lives.



But many Omanis and Emiratis - and Saudis, Bahrainis, Qataris and Kuwaitis when it rains there - believe that the state should fix the infrastructural flaws that make floods happen.

In a way, these floods show the state at its best and its worse.

Cyclone Gonu which hit Oman in 2007 and killed at least 61 people, saw the police receive huge applause from the public for saving many lives. But it also highlighted massive flaws in Oman's infrastructure, which still don't seem to be fixed.

Citizens say that Abu Dhabi and Muscat governments must accept that global warming has made erratic weather and storms a regular fact of life and act accordingly.

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