Abu Dhabi: A massive thunderstorm that hit the capital on Wednesday caused widespread property damage, throwing life out of gear in several parts of the city. There was no official word on deaths or injuries.
Flying debris from construction sites, broken windows in high-rise offices and hotel towers and uprooted trees and road signs were reported by residents, most of whom stayed indoors to avoid the havoc.
Police and municipality officials urged residents to remain at home or within their workplaces except in case of emergencies.
Rain hitting the capital on Wednesday was mainly focused in suburban areas like Bani Yas and Al Shamkha and were of much lower intensity than the rains and thunder that lashed the capital for about two hours on Tuesday. The intensity increased further during the thunderstorm that occurred before dawn on Wednesday. Although the skies cleared for a while afterwards, heavy rain, thunder and lightning began at 11.30am, continuing till about 2pm.
Roads in downtown Abu Dhabi faced congestion as dozens of traffic signals lights faced power outages on Zayed the First Street (popularly known as Electra Street) and Hamdan Bin Mohammad Street.
Colonel Jamal Al Ameri, head of public relations at the Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrol Directorate, said police patrols were deployed to direct motorists.
Drivers on highways were also advised to be extra careful when approaching bridges in rainy weather, as water can accumulate under and around them and can be near invisible until the vehicle is very close. Col Al Ameri therefore advised motorists to slow down when approaching bridges.
Traffic was diverted due to accumulation of water under Taweelah bridge along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway. There was also congestion near Al Samha area.
“Leave enough room between vehicles, and do not speed as you may have to make a sudden risky stop when you notice debris or water on the roads,” Col Al Ameri advised.
He also asked drivers to ensure that windshield wipers were functioning properly during the rain.
An official statement about traffic accidents and injuries was not available before print deadline, but Col Al Ameri told Gulf News that no major injuries or casualties had been recorded as yet.
Uprooted trees temporarily blocked sections of Corniche Road and Khaleej Al Arabi Street, and damaged dozens of cars parked near the Carrefour roundabout along Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street.
Winds reaching a speed of nearly 100km/h in the afternoon shattered glass windows in high-rise offices and hotel towers.
“We were asked to leave our offices on Corniche Road after a massive glass pane crashed into the entrance of our office building,” said Mohammad, a Bangladeshi resident in the capital.
Meanwhile, municipal authorities urged construction sector entities to suspend risky activities during inclement weather, including working at heights, lifting operations using cranes and towers and moving of heavy vehicles and equipment. In a statement sent by the Environment, Health and Safety Department of the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City, authorities urged that supervisors monitor the safety of all personnel to minimise and prevent injuries.
The municipality also received 435 calls about waterlogging across the city through its emergency control room, and deployed about 200 tankers and 100 pumps to suck out the rainwater. It also created an emergency plan to deal with rainfall and waterlogging, and urged residents to report incidents through its 993 emergency contact number.
Aweida Al Marar, chairman of the municipal sector regulator in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport (DMA), also urged residents to stay indoors during bad weather.
“This is the best safety measure they can take,” he told Gulf News.
-With additional inputs from Aseel Lulu, trainee at Gulf News