Rain exposes poor drainage in Jeddah

Parts of the western region of Saudi Arabia were once again struck by heavy downpours on Thursday morning that wreaked havoc and raised concerns of flash-flooding. Jeddah’s roads were clogged with traffic as drivers navigated through raging rivers of rainwater that exposed the city’s drainage problems. Trees fell and manhole covers popped up as the existing drainage network quickly reached capacity in some parts of the city. Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said the situation in Jeddah and other parts of the province is under control. “The floods caused the death of a man and three children in the suburbs of Makkah, the collapse of many houses in Al-Sawaed and Umm Al-Khayr districts and serious injuries to a security man in Jeddah,” he said. The man and the three children died when the car they were traveling in was swept away by a torrent in Wadi Al-Bajidi. The body of a drowned child was recovered from a large pool of rainwater in Al-Ais, north of Madinah.

Several women and children were airlifted from a marooned residential building in Jeddah’s Quwaiza district, which was one of the worst flood-devastated areas of the Nov. 25, 2009 flash floods that killed at least 123 and destroyed nearly 10,000 vehicles. “Civil Defense helicopters rescued four women and five children in the Umm Al-Khayr residential complex in the Quwaiza district,” said Commander of the Civil Defense Helicopter Division Maj. Gen. Muhammad Al-Harb. Traffic was halted on Haramain Expressway to the north after the roads close to the Palestine Overpass and the Harazat district became lakes of water deep enough to submerge vehicles. The Civil Defense declared emergency in the area in the afternoon. A number of dinghies were brought out to help in rescue operations in the Wadi Qaus. The underpass of King Abdullah Street was once again under water as it was during the November 2009 floods when the problem of lack of drainage was identified as the cause. “I wonder why the municipal officials did not learn from the experience just a year ago,” a bystander near the waterlogged underpass told Arab News. Last year, dozens of washed-away vehicles were retrieved from the completely submerged underpass, but no bodies were discovered. “Rubber boat teams rescued 190 people in the Al-Harazat district while ground teams rescued seven members of a family in a car that submerged in the water in the midst of the wadi,” said spokesman of the Civil Defense in Makkah province Maj. Abdullah Al-Amri. According to an official source in the Civil Defense, the flood waters gushing in from outside collected in Wadi Marikh and caused power failure in the Umm Al-Khayr residential complex in the Quwaiza district and also inundated the lower stories of buildings.

Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras visited flood-hit spots including Madinah Road, King Abdul Aziz Street, Al-Andalus, King Abdullah Underpass and neighborhoods in the east of the Haramain Expressway. Municipal authorities were busy pumping out surface water in many neighborhoods. In Taif, police closed down Al-Kar and Al-Hada roads for more than one hour because of fallen debris. The road was reopened to traffic later. Part of an old three-room house in Al-Jarif district in Madinah collapsed due to heavy rains. None of the 13 inhabitants was hurt or injured. “Our monthly income is 1,700 riyals so we are unable to move,” said Um Abdul Hamid, the owner of the house, who is in her 60s. Civil Defense Maj. Khaled Al-Johani said the situation in rain-soaked areas was under control. “A number of cars were stuck on the flooded streets but this has been overcome and traffic is back to normal,” he said Thursday afternoon. Huge traffic jams were seen on Makkah’s main streets. The traffic department had a hard time clearing the jams. Floods caused by the downpour dragged a number of cars and blocked roads. Some roads were totally blocked as vehicles drove in the opposite direction to avoid traffic. Makkah Municipal Council members conducted field trips to number of neighborhoods to examine conditions there. The members were trying to find out whether the recent water drainage projects were working. In what has become a driving tradition in Jeddah, the “shebab” (youths) came out in force, plowing through water-filled roads in 4×4 vehicles creating bow-waves that both soaked passersby and flooded slow moving cars’ engine compartments. Among the young ones could also be seen adult members of the driving fraternity in expensive SUVs. Many drivers in smaller vehicles miscalculated the depths of the pools, flooding their engines and leaving them stranded with no immediate hope of rescue. The rain also affected shoppers. In one Al-Hamra supermarket, whose manager requested anonymity, the roof leaked thousands of liters of water on to mid-morning shoppers, ruining stock and fusing lights in the process. Water poured from the false ceiling through air-conditioning vents and light fittings. Staff herded shoppers out, used plastic table-cloths from the retail display to cover shelves and counters and mopped water from the aisles in a desperate attempt to minimize damage. All along the parade of shops adjoining the supermarket, shopkeepers struggled to stave off the water flooding their shops. – Arabnews