18 Apr 2024

Watch: Dubai floods: NZ family swim to safety as roads turn to rivers

12:39 pm on 18 April 2024

First published on NZ Herald

By Heath Moore, NZH

A Kiwi family stranded in Dubai because of wild flooding has described the moment their car stopped in the middle of the road after water levels rose suddenly, forcing them to "swim" to safety.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was thrown into apocalyptic scenes when Dubai was pounded with more than a year's worth of rain inside a matter of hours, turning streets into rivers as rushing water inundated homes, businesses and the airport into a marina.

Aucklander Dima Hamadeh, 35, and her husband Luca Bella, 40, were on their way to Dubai Airport with their three children aged 7, 5 and 1, when their journey was brought to a sudden halt.

Auckland man Luca Bella (pictured) and his wife Dima Hamadeh were stranded in the Dubai floods, having to carry their young children to safety after their car filled up with water on the way to the airport.

Auckland man Luca Bella (pictured) and his wife Dima Hamadeh were stranded in the Dubai floods, having to carry their young children to safety after their car filled up with water on the way to the airport. Photo: Dima Hamadeh

Hamadeh told the Herald their car filled up with water in a matter of minutes before it stopped working, forcing them to wade to safety as water levels continued to rise.

"Every year we come to Dubai for a holiday and nothing ever happens like this. We were heading to catch our plane when it started pouring down," she told the Herald.

"We called the airport and they told us to come six hours early. We left home and within 10 minutes the road was flooded so deep it came into our car. After another five minutes our feet were covered in water before the car completely stopped.

"My husband opened the door and got out and took our young kids and our luggage one by one to another street that didn't have as much flooding."

It was the desert city's heaviest rainfall in 75 years and effectively shut down the whole city, leaving travellers stranded and both tourists and locals wading through chest-deep waters.

The heavy rain turned deadly, killing one in the UAE and 19 people in neighbouring Oman as the Middle East was ravaged by a severe storm.

Airport runways turned into marinas and waterfalls formed in malls as Dubai was hit with deadly rainfall.

Photo: Supplied

While Hamadeh and Bella's young children have experienced heavy rain in New Zealand, seeing their car flood became all too much for them as they cried for their father.

"We had to start swimming for some parts [as it was quite deep] before we found another road that wasn't flooded.

"Our kids were scared and crying, saying "we love you Daddy". I had to tell them nothing bad was going to happen. They pictured it like the movies.

"We had to abandon our car and walk in the heavy rain while carrying our kids as they cried. We walked for about 30 minutes before we found someone who could take us back to our compound.

"Back home in New Zealand it rains all the time and we've never experienced anything like this before."

The Auckland-based family have had their flight out of Dubai cancelled and will instead be returning home later this month.

Hamadeh said they've been stuck inside their compound for a couple of days due to the flooding.

In footage supplied to the Herald, cars on motorways were seen submerged in water while stores inside some of the city's malls turned to waterfalls.

Hundreds of cars were left abandoned on the streets of Dubai as flash floods caused havoc across the city after receiving a year's worth of rain in a matter of hours.

Photo: Supplied

One video shows panels crashing to the floor as waterfalls crashed into stores, creating thousands of dollars worth of damage and sending people fleeing to safety.

Authorities sent tanker trucks into the streets and highways to pump away the water.

A number of locals described the floods as "absolute carnage" and "apocalyptic".

Some reports suggested people were being turned away from the airport terminal, such was the level of overcrowding inside as hundreds of travellers looked to escape the chaos.

Stunning video showed several jets cutting through murky water at Dubai International Airport, as the huge planes appeared to be floating through the water in footage that went viral on social media.

Thousands of people were forced to abandon their cars as vehicles began to float.

The rain that plunged Dubai underwater is associated with a larger storm system traversing the Arabian Peninsula and moving across the Gulf of Oman.

Air travel remains challenging in Dubai, the world's second busiest air hub.

The UAE's National Centre for Meteorology said 255mm of rain came down in 24 hours near Al Ain, on the Oman border.