'Never again': UAE residents recount all they learnt, lost in floods after heaviest rain

One expat never wanted to live in a ground-floor apartment again after seeing how floods destroyed her home; another vowed to avoid units on higher levels after having to climb 12 floors down

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo: KT File / M. Sajjad
Photo: KT File / M. Sajjad

Published: Fri 17 May 2024, 2:06 PM

Last updated: Sun 19 May 2024, 7:44 PM

On April 16, Farheen S. was in the kitchen cooking food in her Al Nahda apartment when she heard a loud sound. When she rushed to the hall, she saw that water had gushed through the ceiling.

“Everything was soaked,” she recalled. “I grabbed my son, who is just a year old, and my passport bag and we raced out of the house. It wasn’t a trickle of water. It was almost like a river flowing through my apartment.”


Farheen, an Indian expat, was one of the thousands of people who were impacted by the unprecedented rain and subsequent flooding in the UAE on April 16.

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“For the last month, we have lived in different places, including a friend’s house and then a hotel apartment,” she said. “Even now, when I hear rumblings in the pipes, I start to get worried. It is like having to relive the whole thing again. Also, I never want to live in a ground floor apartment ever again. There were three families on the ground floor and all our apartments were ruined.”

The 23-year-old said she got incredibly lucky with her landlord. “The company has offered to find us alternate apartments in some of their other properties for the same rent,” she said. “They have also offered to compensate us for our loss of property, which was very kind of them. Right now, we are waiting for our new apartment to be ready. We are happy we are taken care of. However, everything my husband and I had collected through years of our marriage and many keepsakes of my son are all gone.”

'Never want to live above 5th floor'

Pregnant Sharjah resident Marrita was grateful that the floods were now a thing of the past. “We were on the 12th floor and there was no electricity," she recalled.

When Marrita and her family fell ill, they wore protective gear and waded through the water to get to the hospital, she said.

"When we got back home, we barely had the energy to stand up. It was a difficult time for us," the resident said.

Learning from the experience, the chartered accountant took the time to check her surroundings and spot low-lying areas that were prone to floods. "Now, we park our car away from these areas. Also, whenever we shift out of this house, I never want to live on a floor above the fifth floor. I don't want to have to climb down 12 floors anymore.”

Better prepared

Indian expat Mohammed Naseef, who lives in Al Furjan with his wife and child, said he was better prepared for the floods than most of his neighbours because of his previous experience.

“I am from the south Indian state of Kerala and I was caught in the 2018 floods,” he said. “So, as soon as the rains started getting heavy, I took my car out of the basement and parked it at an elevated spot, quite far away from my house. At the time, my neighbours thought it was unnecessary but it turned out to be the right thing to do. When flood hit the basement, I was able to get out of the house quickly and move my family to a friend’s home.”

In the aftermath, Naseef said the residents of the building Rakayez had become closer. “A WhatsApp group was formed for all the residents,” he said. “We worked together to bring our grievances to the attention of our building management. It was a concerted effort to help each other out and I think we have all become closer.”

Naseef has also invested in a new item: A mosquito bat. After encountering mosquitoes from water ponds in their community, the expat thought it was "a smart decision to buy one".

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