5 killed as rains, flash floods hit Saudi coast
Residents urged to stay indoors; schools closed
RIYADH: Severe weather along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast claimed five lives yesterday, including three children who drowned, and closed schools and universities, the country’s Civil Defense said. An 11-year-old child drowned in the western province of Yanbu, apparently due to a valley flooding. Another child, whose age was not disclosed, died after being swept by floodwaters in the northwestern province of Hail. A third child was confirmed dead after drowning in area on the outskirts of Jeddah, the Civil Defense authority said. Two other people died when they were electrocuted by a lamppost in the coastal city.
Civil Defense rescue crews are searching for another child that is missing in Hail, while a third was rescued from a flooded valley there. “We are all pained today by the loss of our children’s lives in accidents and various areas after being swept away by the floodwaters,” the civil defense authority said in a tweet. A picture posted by the agency showed water over the wheels of cars in one Jeddah location, but elsewhere it covered only the feet of firefighters. The government urged Jeddah residents to stay home, and gave children there a day off school yesterday and today.
“The next few hours will see more moderate rains in Jeddah and its northern areas,” said Hussein Al-Qahtani, a weather department spokesman. Even heavier rains fell in the northwestern city of Tabuk, near Jordan, where 46 mm were recorded since Monday, Qahtani said. Following cool winds, moderate to heavy rains would today move east to the Riyadh region and other areas, he told Al-Ekhbaria television news channel. Floods killed 123 people in Jeddah in 2009, and about 10 people two years later.
Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport said eight domestic flights were delayed “due to the rainy weather conditions in Jeddah”. One international flight was diverted to Madinah, it added in a statement, without giving more details. “Air traffic is now back to normal,” the airport said.
Saudis took to social media to share videos and pictures of flooded streets and high winds. Flooding is politically sensitive in Jeddah, where previous incidents have prompted widespread anger over the perceived failure of local and national government to build suitable defences and to prevent illegal housing developments in risky areas. Footage and photographs shown on Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television pictured cars being swept along Jeddah streets and people using boats to navigate districts of the city. The National Center for Meteorology and Seismology in the neighboring United Arab Emirates says rain is expected there Friday.
JEDDAH: A man pushes his car in floodwaters following heavy rainfall in this Saudi port city yesterday.