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There are canceled flights and fish on sidewalks after Dubai's record rainfall


Malls were flooded, cars were abandoned in the street and more than a thousand flights were cancelled this week in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates says the country experienced the heaviest rainfall ever recorded since the start of data collection 75 years ago. NPR correspondent Aya Batrawy has this report from Dubai.

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: Oh, wow. Look at the trees over there. They fell. So I'm walking in my neighborhood in Dubai. It is Friday morning. It is three days after this historic, unprecedented storm in Dubai. I can see the sidewalks in some areas are completely still submerged underwater. And this is just one neighborhood in Dubai. My son just pointed out that on our sidewalk, right where there's, like, a grassy patch of area, we can see fish swimming. The water that was in this man-made lake flooded over to where we are. It's now part of the lake.

FIONA ROOT: I've never seen a storm like this. Even when travelling to the U.S., I've seen the tornados. I've been in China while there was a typhoon. This was next level.

BATRAWY: I met Fiona Root (ph), a teacher in Dubai, out walking her dog this morning. Schools have been remote across the United Arab Emirates this week, she says, giving her COVID vibes. She isn't sure when she'll be back in the classroom.

ROOT: Our school is actually under a lot of water right now.

BATRAWY: Cars are still wading through flooded streets after heavy rainfall Monday and Tuesday swept across parts of the Arabian Peninsula, turning the sky green at one point in Dubai and suspending flights. The skies are clear now, and cleanup crews are busy pumping water out of the streets and clearing debris. There's still no estimate on the cost of damage. Surveys by local websites like Dubizzle and Yallacompare show most people don't have home insurance in Dubai. Those with insurance will need to make sure their coverage includes force majeure events like this week's storm.

Greenpeace Middle East says the severity of the storms, which killed at least 20 people in neighboring Oman, confirm these extreme weather events are related to the, quote, "climate crisis" and the need to phase out fossil fuels. The UAE's The National newspaper ran an editorial saying it's tempting to chalk down this week's storm as a once-in-a-generation event, but they say science proves this kind of weather is becoming the new norm here. Gulf Arab states are investing in renewable energy, but there's no plans to scale back their oil production.

Aya Batrawy, NPR News, Dubai.


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Aya Batrawy
Aya Batraway is an NPR International Correspondent based in Dubai. She joined in 2022 from the Associated Press, where she was an editor and reporter for over 11 years.