Complex Made Simple

How high is the cost of UAE and Saudi rainfall?

The hot and dry nature of GCC countries lead us often to believe that it’s hard to witness heavy rain and floods in this part of the region.

One year ago, the UAE even had plans to build its own mountains in a bid to create more rainfall.

Ameinfo caught a few tweeters jubilant about the rain, but little did they know that while rain is needed, so is drainage.

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Heavy rains hit parts of Dubai, Al Ain, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah over the weekend, flooding streets and causing huge traffic delays.

Also, Jeddah witnessed a similar scenario over a month ago, the case repeating every year.

What’s the human toll this time around?

Accidents and Casualties

Unhappy were people when heavy rain and floods led to 581 accidents in Dubai over the past 3 days, with the Dubai Police receiving over 12,537 emergency calls during rainfall.

Motorists were caught in traffic jams on key roads in Dubai, according to media statements.

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It was also reported that up to 167 UAE nationals from Kalba were sheltered at a hotel in Fujairah.

In addition, 558 people from 28 families in Fujairah were vacated and 24 households in Al Ain were put up at a hotel in the city.

Emirates Red Crescent said 600 people were affected in Fujairah and provided meals, according to media.

Meanwhile, the repercussions in Saudi Arabia were more serious with at least 4 deaths recorded, according to a Saudi Gazette report.

“Out of the 29 emergency reports received by Jeddah Health Affairs, eight were related to electrocution and the rest traffic accidents,” according to the Saudi Gazette.

But why does the GCC struggle with such events?

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Lack of preparedness

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are ill prepared when facing such sudden events.

In the past, UAE authorities lowered water levels in pump stations but it has not always been enough to absorb all storm waters, according to media reports.

“Certainly new structures should be built factoring in the ability to weather the worst of the UAE’s winds and rains. Private developers also have a responsibility to keep infrastructure maintained,” said media reports.

Likewise, citizens of Saudi Arabia and namely Jeddah have long decried poor infrastructure resulting in the heavy floods in the country every year.

The floods taking place in the GCC every year as a result of heavy rain are behind some of these countries major economic losses.

Economic losses

A study prepared by Sharjah University reveals that the unprecedented flash flood disasters that took place in the Middle East over the past years and mainly from 1960 to 2006 triggered by heavy rain and storms have caused loss of life, social and livelihood disturbance and large economic damages to private and public assets.

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The study said that a flood disaster affecting over 1000 people is occurring nearly every year in one of the MENA countries. “The increasing trend in economic damage is believed to escalate in view of the massive urbanization development and lag of adequate infrastructures in many countries of the MENA region,” it said.

The study also cited examples of floods that took place in the past in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and the casualties and losses they have caused.

It said that flash flood of February 27th, 2010, in the central and eastern region of the UAE inundated many areas triggering loss of life and paralyzing the social and economical activity of over 5,000 peoples.

It added: “The Jeddah flood of November 2009, in Saudi Arabia, drowned over 120 people, left thousands of others homeless and thousands vehicles destroyed in the city accounting for $270 Million worth of economical damage. During the same period of 2010 an even larger disastrous flood again hit Jaddah to create an even more complex flood management chaos for the country.”

 Additional costs to developers

Developers will have to incur additional costs as a result of regulations issued by Abu Dhabi authorities over a year ago to make sure building are better equipped to handle extreme weather conditions.

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Graham Howatt, head of property asset management services, JLL, was quoted in 2016 as saying: “The extreme wind and rain ‘teased out’ weaknesses in a number of buildings’ exterior protection, such as cladding, roofs and window seals, and also drainage systems which were not designed to cope with such amounts of rainfall in such a short period of time.

“Certainly better drainage in and around buildings would have helped.”

“These improvements might add to the construction costs for the developers who in turn may charge a premium for such properties from the investors and end users,” said David Godchaux, CEO of Core, the subsidiary of real estate firm Savills.