‘Living on duty free’: Passengers stuck in Dubai airport chaos

Scenes at Dubai Airport after wild floods

Source: X

Chaos continues in Dubai, a day after a record deluge flooded runways at one of the world’s busiest airports, with stranded travellers describing “absolute carnage” in the terminals.

The United Arab Emirates is trying to dry out after the “historic weather event” dumped more than a year’s rain in just over 24 hours.

The rain began late on Monday (local time), soaking Dubai’s sands and roads with 20 millimetres of rain, according to meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport.

The storms intensified on Tuesday and continued throughout the day, dumping more rain and hail onto the overwhelmed city. By the end of the day, more than 142 millimetres had fallen.

In an average year, there is just 94.7 millimetres at Dubai International Airport, a hub for the long-haul carrier Emirates.

At the airport, standing water lapped on taxiways as aircraft landed.

Arrivals were halted on Tuesday night, and passengers struggled to reach terminals through the flood water covering surrounding roads.

One couple, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely in a country with strict laws that criminalise critical speech, called the situation at the airport “absolute carnage”.

“You cannot get a taxi. There’s people sleeping in the Metro station. There’s people sleeping in the airport,” the man said on Wednesday.

They got a taxi to near their home 30 kilometres away but flood waters on the road stopped them. A bystander helped them over a highway barrier.

Another stranded passenger pleaded for help on social media.

“Thousands of people are stranded at Dubai International Airport for hours now with no food, no sitting arrangements, no help or support whatsoever, no food or assistance available for infants and children. It’s complete chaos, it’s completely an inhumane situation,” they wrote on X.

“Helpline is shut, calls or chat doesn’t work. Help!!!!! Please help!!”

Floods at Dubai International Airport

Source: X

Dubai International Airport acknowledged on Wednesday morning that the flooding had left “limited transportation options” and affected flights as aircraft crews could not reach the airfield.

“Recovery will take some time,” it said on the social platform X.

Airline Emirates said it had halted check-in for passengers departing from Dubai from 8am until midnight on Wednesday as it tried to clear the airport of transit passengers – many of whom had been sleeping where they could in its cavernous terminals.

Passengers on FlyDubai, Emirates’ low-cost sister airline, also faced disruptions.

Airport chief executive Paul Griffiths acknowledged continued issues with flooding on Wednesday, saying every place an aircraft could be safely parked was taken.

Some planes had been diverted to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, the city-state’s second airfield. It is more than 80 kilometres from the main airport.

British couple James and Elizabeth Devine and their six-month-old son were among passengers stranded at World Central after their flight home from a wedding in Sydney was diverted.

The Devines said they had been “living on duty free” and water was in short supply.

“The restaurants are closed,” Mr Devine told the BBC.

“The only food we have is from duty free, so it’s like they haven’t provided any food for infants or young children. There’s no nappies, so we’re like handing off nappies to people.”

Griffiths said the situation was still “incredibly challenging”.

“In living memory, I don’t think anyone has ever seen conditions like it,” he told the state-owned talk radio station Dubai Eye.

“We are in uncharted territory, but I can assure everyone we are working as hard as we possibly can to make sure our customers and staff are looked after.”

Earlier, the state-run WAM news agency called Tuesday’s deluge “a historic weather event” that surpassed “anything documented since the start of data collection in 1949”.

Rain also fell in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

One possible contributor may have been cloud seeding – in which small planes operated by the government fly through clouds burning special salt flares to increase precipitation.

Several reports quoted meteorologists at the National Centre for Meteorology as saying up to seven cloud-seeding flights took off before the downpour.

Flight-tracking data analysed by the Associated Press showed one aircraft affiliated with the UAE’s cloud-seeding efforts flew on Monday.

The National, an English-language state-linked newspaper in Abu Dhabi, quoted an anonymous official at the centre on Wednesday as saying there was no cloud seeding on Tuesday, without acknowledging any earlier flights.

The UAE conducts cloud seeding in part to increase its dwindling, limited groundwater.

-with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.