Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A lot of the problem is people

It's a bit chaotic out there.

Photo: Hadrian Hernandez.Gulf News

We've had rain for four consecutive days now, a record 110 mm in Dubai to Tuesday according to the Met office. The previous record for the whole of January was 81.9 mm. We've had more overnight and this morning too, so the record has been well and truly broken.

Not surprisingly many roads are flooded, some have had to be closed, various traffic lights aren't working. Car parks are under water too - probably about a third of the Knowledge Village car park has ankle deep water on it.

Inevitably a lot of the problems, particularly on the roads, are caused by people doing the wrong thing.

Drivers of high vehicles like buses and 4X4s going ridiculously fast through the floodwaters, throwing water all over the rest of the road, onto windshields, making it even more dangerous for the rest of us.

The inevitable hazzard light idiots driving along with indicators flashing on both sides of their car so the rest of us have no idea when or where they're going to turn.

Tailgaters are driving as normal, right up behind the vehicle in front. If they have to hit their brakes they're going to aquaplane into other vehicles.

The normal speeding, but now on abnormal roads.

Plenty of incidents are being reported, five killed across the country.

A 23 year old was killed in this crash when, in heavy rain, his car skidded into a concrete barrier on the side of the highway from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. The car bounced off the barrier into a parked vehicle but fortunately no-one else was injured. What speed was he doing to cause this amount of damage I wonder.

Photo: Gulf News

Another stupidity is that over 12,000 calls have been made to 999, the emergency number, most of which were motorists complaining about flooded roads. Many other motorists apparently complained that they couldn't get through to report their own non-emergencies!

Meanwhile, the few people who may have had a genuine emergency and were in urgent need of assistance probably couldn't get through either.


I don't understand the many complaints I'm hearing and reading that the drainage system isn't up to the job, 'how typical', 'shoddy workmanship', 'bad planning'.

We're in a country where rain is a rarity. Drainage systems have been or are being put in to cope with the predicted rain for such an arid country.

As Gulf News reports: "The storm water system is not designed for immediate clearance of rainwater because it does not rain here throughout the year," said an official at Dubai Municipality. He said it takes six hours for rain water to clear if it rains up to 18mm continuously.

In addition, I'm sure many of the drains are clogged by construction debris or sand. Throughout the dry months I've seen many, many road cleaners sweeping sand into the drains rather than shovelling it up.

And even in countries where rain is very frequent there are plenty of floods.

By co-incidence, today's English papers have stories of the floods in their wet country. Their Environment Agency issued 71 flood warnings last night, most in the West Country, Wales and the West Midlands. Not rain warnings but flood warnings.

And here's a photo from The Times of the town of Tewkesbury...

Given all the circumstances, Dubai does pretty well in my opinion.


Anonymous said...

No wonder there are accidents when you have people with the same mentality as of this forum poster driving on the streets....

haha did 220 kph yesterday on Shk Z rd.. same this morning.. it really isnt as dangerous as u think in most cases drivers are just scared and driving really slow.... most roads are relatively clear people just need to move to the right lanes and let others who know how to drive in rain with new tires that dispers water properly to pass! haha Move B&tch get out the way get out the way!!! hahaha

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. Although this year rain has been heavier than usual, it rains every year and every year buildings leak, roads flood and there is chaos.

Tewkesbury was under water due to incredibly heavy rain - the authorities certainly could have planned things better, but the situation was rather abnormal.

In Dubai chaos begins when rain is normal and then rapidly moves on to utter chaos if the rain continues for an extra day or two.

It rains every year here, but every year the authorities act surprised.

Anonymous said...

I too disagree, Tewkesbury is at the covergence of two major rivers: the Severn and the Avon.

All rainwater from about 50 miles upstream cascades down hills and mountains into streams which feed those rivers and thus through that area of Gloucestershire. And it's been raining in England for about a year now - not two days.

I'd also like to ask the Municipality drains chief the following: If the storm drainage system is not designed to clear rainwater immediately then what the hell is it there for!

I have lived here for years and every year it is the same and the municipality trots out the same old pass-the-buck excuses.

Now they are saying that they are not responsible for roads in private developments (ie most of Dubai) - but who passes the plans for such developments that are being built in the 21st century with 18th century drainage systems? That's right, the municipality.

In the same Gulf News article he also stated that "most areas functioned normally" on Tuesday - what dream world does he live in?

And he also blamed the public for choking the drainage system! Brilliant so it's everyone's fault except the municipality.

When are these jokers going to be accountable for their incompetence.

Seabee said...

anon x 2. Tewkesbury happened to be the photo I used because that was a comvenient one from The Times. According to the English papers "vast swathes of Britain are on flood alert" and "fears of a repeat of the floods of just a few months ago which brought chaos to much of southern England."
It's all due to 'incredibly heavy rain' you say - but that's a regular occurence in the UK.

There's not a problem in England when it snows? Trains don't grind to a halt because there are leaves on the track?

You're looking at it through the proverbial rose coloured glasses, not at what actually happens.

The same kind of problems happen all around the world when it gets too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, too dry, too whatever. Dubai isn't an exception.

The drainage system here is designed to clear rain in six hours - we don't need stormwater drains like Singapore!

And actually, most areas did function normally. There were problems on several roads and in several areas, but I drove around Dubai Marina, Beach Road, the Tecom areas, Sheikh Zayed Road from Defence Roundabout to Jebel Ali, Mall of the Emirates and I didn't hit any problems.

Anonymous said...

I drove from Mirdif to SZR interchange 1. A journey that normally takes 20 minutes. It took three hours. Every road I travelled on had flooding to a greater or lesser degree. Some were impassable. SZR outside the Gulf News building was flooded, as was the Pepsi junction. Al Quoz was under water. The water was 2m deep on Emirates Raod which had to be shut for more than 12 hours. The Hatta Road was flooded, as was Ras Al Khor Industrial estate and large parts of Karama.

Friends in International City got up on Tuesday to find their cars in the middle of lakes where there were car parks the night before.

That's quite a lot of areas of Dubai. Maybe the ares you were in were unaffected, but in my book that little lot (and that's just what I witnessed) does not count as most areas were functioning normally.

The difference in Britain is the very phrase "on flood alert" - ie warnings have been given and people can take precautions, emergency services, army etc are put on standby and have emergency plans. As of now, of 71 flood alerts there has only been flooding in a couple places.

We all knew it was going to rain heavily in Dubai this week. It had been forecast for days. Were precautions taken such as making sure drains were clear, gullies clean out etc taken. No?

Were pumps on standby to clear water. No?

This amount of rain would not even cause a blip elsewhere in the world. The same happened at the time of the rugby sevens last year and after just one thunderstorm the year before.

Of all the billions being spent on vast developments in this city just a fraction on decent drainage and sewerage infrastructure would make a vast difference to the quality of everybody's lives when the annual rains come.

Still it could be worse. I could live in Sharjah - now there they really suffered.

By the way, Al Quoz has just been renamed Dubai Venice City.

nzm said...

Each year in Dubai the rains cause issues, and each year the reaction from the authorities is one of surprise.

According to a past conversation I had with a blogger in the know - he works in Dxb in a roading-related career - there is a decent drainage system built into the new roads in Dxb.

The problem is mainly caused by untrained maintenance crews contributing to 2 factors:
~ the sand isn't cleared out of the drainage holes which cause them to block, (as Seabee has observed, sand is swept into the drains by the road crews) and
~ the sand covers (which are built into the drainage holes to stop the sand from entering) aren't set to their "open" positions during the rainy season which would allow the water to flow freely into the drains.

Whichever way you look at it, the problem is manmade and not entirely due to a force of nature!

i*maginate said...

1) Your last sentence, truly hope that was sarcastic?

2) Could you please post any article from which you gained that info from in your first para, for my info...:)

3)Drainage: needs some sh***y improvement. If there were some kind of voluntary programme, I'd be happy to don a gas mask and get digging for charity, since public funds are obviously at a low.

Seabee said...

i*maginate there are two articles, here and

i*maginate said...

Thx...& sorry for the occasional outburst, can't help it these days!

Seabee said...

i*maginate, it's good to get it out, bottling the frustrations up inside is bad for us!

Kenny Ng said...

I've seen so many similar of this kind of scene back in Malaysia. The main causes still due to improper town planning.

The different of UAE is a sandy country, open channel drainage is not an idea, therefor what I observed is UAE don't have much of water retention pond which can prevent flash flood happen.

i*maginate said...

Thanks seabee, been thinking about what you said. It's true, bottling things up is not good, but it's not like there are many avenues to do otherwise here.

Keep up the excellent work on your blog. I know it must take a lot of effort to do the investigative work you do. It's a great consolation and relief, to say the least. One of my fave discoveries of 2007 ;-)

ZeTallGerman said...

Of course, seabee has a point: it doesn't regularly rain here. But last winter, we had the exact same scenario: roads were flooded, Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Batutta, and other malls' had rain coming in through their windows and roof (didn't they think to fix that last year???) and in general, no matter what *developed* country you're in a major rule has been disregarded: highways need to be built with a downward slope to either side, in order for any water or spillages from accidents to drain. How can it be that I'm driving on Al Khail or Shk Zayed Road (a highway) and suddenly 3 out of 5 lanes are under water? I understand that side-streets flood, but a highway? That's unforgiveable.