Saturday, Mar 25, 2017

Dubai: Flights in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were diverted and cancelled and weather warnings issued on Saturday with forecasters expecting rain and strong winds to lash the UAE into Monday.

A total of 15 inbound flights at Dubai International Airport (DXB) were diverted to neighbouring airports and several others were delayed from taking off due to the rain.

“Normal operations at DXB have been disrupted as result of weather conditions persisting since last night,” Dubai Airports said in a statement. “Passengers are requested to check the status of their flights with their respective airlines before heading to the airport.”

Over at Abu Dhabi International Airport, flagship carrier Etihad Airways said that eight flights had been diverted to airports within the UAE or the Gulf region due to the unstable weather.

“The airline is working to ensure that they return to Abu Dhabi as soon as possible,” Etihad said in a statement. “The airline will be monitoring the weather situation in the UAE throughout the day… Etihad Airways apologises for any inconvenience caused but the safety and security of our passengers and staff is of the utmost importance.”

In its own statement, Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates — which operates around 500 flights a day from Dubai — said numerous arriving and departing flights had been delayed or cancelled.

“Emirates apologises for the inconvenience caused,” said a spokesperson. “The safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance and will not be compromised.”

While Sharjah had also had heavy rainfall, a representative of Sharjah International Airport said that no flights had been delayed or cancelled there.

Forecasters from the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) warned that unstable weather would increase late on Saturday and Sunday and continue through Monday.

“Rain will affect the whole costal area of the UAE and the wind will be moderate to strong at times,” a forecaster told Gulf News. He added that high humidity — around 82 to 83 per cent — would bolster cloud formation.

Drivers should be cautious due to the wet roads and poor visibility, the forecasters said.

People heading out to sea in both the Arabian Gulf and the Sea of Oman should be wary of rough to very rough conditions in general as winds from a south-westerly direction have created an extended low pressure area.

Satellite images showed a blanket of cloud — some of them rainclouds — spread across the UAE, Qatar and eastern parts of Saudi Arabia, all the way to the northern parts of Oman and Iran.

Saturday’s downpour is just part of a five-day streak of unstable weather that started on Thursday evening, the forecaster said.

“Unstable weather conditions will affect all of the UAE,” the forecaster added.

On Twitter, using the hashtag ‘rain’, more than 2,000 people in the UAE posted updates on the wet spell.

Dubai Police also took to Twitter to warn drivers of the risk of hydroplaning — caused by the build-up of water under the tyres — and advised them to keep a slower speed. Police in Abu Dhabi echoed the call.

On Saturday afternoon, the countrywide average temperature hovered at around 27 degrees Celsius, with highs of around 33 degrees Celsuis in the Western Region.

At the same time, at the top of Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the UAE’s highest mountains, temperatures were around 11.5 degrees Celsius.

In Sharjah, to ensure smooth traffic flow, the Rain Emergency Committee of the Sharjah City Municipality deployed its field teams to swiftly deal with and remove the accumulated rainwater from the main streets of the emirate.

Thabet Al Tarifi, director general of Sharjah Municipality, said that the Rain Emergency Committee’s field teams have been deployed across the emirate and are equipped with necessary tools including protective clothing and equipment, diesel pumps and vacuum tankers to collect accumulated rainwater from the streets.

“The field teams are working around the clock to deal with rainwater to ensure the maximum degree of safety and security for citizens and expats” Al Tarifi added.

Hassan Al Taffaq, deputy chairman of the Higher Rain Emergency Committee in Sharjah City Municipality, noted that the field teams have been deployed in Sharjah according to a pre-set plan and based on weather forecasts and they are equipped with 145 diesel pumps and more than 90 vacuum tankers.

By Paul Crompton Staff Reporter

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