'Wasn't easy to leave cars in flood': Hundreds of UAE residents abandon cars after engines die

Panic and fear gripped many motorists as the water level surged, and they had to make a choice- to prioritise their safety or cling to their cars


SM Ayaz Zakir


Waad Barakat

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Flooded area in Al Ittihad road, after the heavy rain on Wednesday. April 17, 2024. KT Photo: Shihab
Flooded area in Al Ittihad road, after the heavy rain on Wednesday. April 17, 2024. KT Photo: Shihab

Published: Thu 18 Apr 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 18 Apr 2024, 11:04 PM

As torrential rain battered the UAE on April 16, transforming roads into rivers and trapping residents in broken-down cars, the decision to abandon vehicles became a painful reality for many. As the floodwaters swelled, individuals grappled with the heart-wrenching choice: prioritise safety or cling to their cars.

For some, seeing their cars parked in designated spots against the rising water level was a scene of helplessness and despair.

"I watched helplessly as the water level kept rising, submerging my car," said Hadi Akbari, a resident of Al Nahda, tears welling in his eyes. "It felt like watching a part of myself being swept away." Akbari's car remains parked near his apartment block, visible from his living room window.

It was his long dream to buy a Nissan Patrol Safari limited edition 2012 model for off-roading adventures. "I bought it a month ago and with the current scenario, I fear even looking at it," said Akbari adding that he has no idea how much damage the car has suffered.

Hadi Akbari's view from his apartment
Hadi Akbari's view from his apartment

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No sign of vehicle

Many parked their cars on the roadside and abandoned them to escape to higher ground for safety. Sheikha M, an Emirati in Dubai, made the difficult decision.

Panic and fear gripped her as the floodwaters surged around her vehicle. She soon realised that staying inside the car could prove fatal. "The water was rising, and it was raining heavily, and I felt trapped. I knew I had to get out," said Sheikha.

"It was heartbreaking for me to leave behind my car," said Sheikha. "But in the face of the relentless floods, my safety and the safety of others became my utmost concern. It was a difficult choice, but I knew it was right."

KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

She was fortunate to meet a compassionate family who had also been on the flooded roads. They were driving a large patrol car capable of navigating the treacherous conditions. "I will forever be grateful to them."

As the floodwaters continued to rise through the city, Sheikha M found herself safe within the confines of her home. Worried about her car, she dialled the emergency helpline and contacted the authorities, explained them her situation and provided the details of her abandoned car. "The authorities told me they would do their best to locate my vehicle and keep me informed," said Sheikha.

KT Photo: Muhammad Sajjad
KT Photo: Muhammad Sajjad

While returning from work, Justin Cyril, a resident of Al Muteena, abandoned his car on Al Ittihad Road as water entered the vehicle while driving. "It was the hardest decision of my life," said Cyril.

"When I accelerated, I could hear just the acceleration sound, and the car did not move forward. That was the time I felt, I have to park it on the road side. It was raining relentlessly at around 4pm (Tuesday) and I could feel that the water level was rising and the even entered my car," said Cyril.

KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

With no choice left, he had to abandon the car behind and get to a nearby building for shelter. Cyril managed to recover his car from the puddle and took it to the garage for repairs. "However, the mechanic must diagnose first for any repair," said Cyril.

Surviving the storm

Thomas Alexander, an Indian resident, found himself in a nightmarish scenario as rain ravaged the city on April 16. Thomas's car was trapped in the rising floodwaters as he sat inside, waiting and hoping for an increasingly unlikely rescue. The water seeped into the vehicle, soaking the seats and rising steadily. Thomas realised that time was running out, and his safety hung in the balance.

Thomas Alexander's submerged car
Thomas Alexander's submerged car

"As a person with diabetes, I was very concerned about my health. And it was getting cold. I didn't actually think about the car at the moment. Getting my medication was my only thought," Thomas said.

Putting his health and well-being above all else, he abandoned his car and forged through the dangerous waters. However, the urgency of the situation compelled him to prioritise his survival over material possessions.

Thomas waded through the risky currents, his body battling against the force of the water. The next day, on April 17, Thomas returned to his car and pushed it with the help of others to a safer location.


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