Flooding brings Qatar to near standstill

A flooded street in the Qatari capital Doha following heavy rainfall on Nov 25, 2015.
A flooded street in the Qatari capital Doha following heavy rainfall on Nov 25, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

DOHA (AFP) - Qatar was hit by more than a year's worth of rain in several hours, while in neighbouring Saudi Arabia one person was killed during flooding on Wednesday (Nov 25).

Roads in Doha were blocked as overnight rain made many near impassable for commuters.

Schools and malls closed as the rain even forced the US embassy in Qatar to shut down.

Worst hit seemed to be the area around Doha's Hamad International Airport, where almost 80 millimetres of rain fell, according to the Qatar Meteorology Department, causing reports on social media of leaks at the estimated US$17 billion (S$23.9 billion) building, which opened just last year.

However, Hamad International said that flights were operating normally, despite the weather conditions.

The World Bank calculates that Qatar receives, on average, 74 millimetres of rain each year.

The US embassy said that the weather had forced it to shut on Wednesday and the offices would not open again until next week.

"Due to inclement weather, the US Embassy in #Qatar will be closed today," it said on Twitter.

The interior ministry pleaded for drivers to take care in the rainy conditions.

Ashgal, the public works authority, denied rumours that the rain had caused structural problems at a major Doha intersection.

Football World Cup 2022 host Qatar is well-known for its fierce summer temperatures, which will force the tournament to be played instead in November and December.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, schools were closed for a second day as rain continued to fall on Riyadh, flooding some streets and forcing drivers to abandon their cars.

About 10 cars were submerged under about 2 metres of water in a highway underpass in the Labban district on the capital's western outskirts, an AFP photographer reported.

Workers were trying to drain the floodwaters into tanker trucks as a light rain fell from gloomy skies.

The Civil Defence agency reported that 72 vehicles had been rescued in the Riyadh region with their occupants unharmed.

One person died in Rimah, north-east of the city, the agency said.

Roads in the city centre were unaffected, although traffic moved along the main King Fahad Road even more slowly than usual.

Some side streets were partly flooded elsewhere in the desert city of 5.7 million, which is dry and sunny for most of the year.

Other parts of the kingdom have also been soaked this week.

At least eight people died in flooding last week in the Medina and Jeddah areas of western Saudi Arabia.