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Gulf Arab countries on alert for more heavy rains

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Israel all reporting heavy rain causing major disruption in the usually arid region
Cars drive through a flooded street in the Gulf emirate of Sharjah following heavy rains in the United Arab Emirates, on 1 January 2022 (AFP)

Authorities in several Gulf countries renewed weather warnings on Sunday as several days of heavy rains battered the usually arid region.

Gulf countries usually experience mild winters, with the exception of rare and brief episodes of heavy rain between November and January.

These can be highly disruptive in the region, where authorities often do not usually install heavy drainage systems due to the rarity of such extreme weather events.

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Torrential rainfall has hit the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with the official WAM news agency saying the bad weather was expected to last until Thursday.

The rain has been exacerbated by cloud seeding, which authorities use to increase the usually low and rare rainfall, the National Center of Meteorology told AFP.

In the UAE emirate of Sharjah, pedestrians and vehicles were caught up in brown-coloured water.

Authorities have not reported any casualties.

Heavy rain has been falling in the vast desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia, impacting pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca.

Moderate to heavy rain is expected to continue in several regions, warned the General Directorate of Saudi Civil Defense

Oman on Saturday announced "stormy rains of varying intensity" in several regions of the country, and state broadcaster Oman TV showed images of wet roads and rising waters.

Twitter users in Oman posted clips of the flooding, together with unverified claims that people had died and that several towns had been cut off. 

Authorities in Qatar urged residents to remain vigilant and forecast "stormy rains" and strong winds in several parts of the country from Sunday.

A Twitter user in Israel posted a clip of water flooding a normally dry river in the Negev desert's Ein Avdat, claiming it had been caused by heavy rainfall in southern Israel.

In Kuwait, "generally average intensity" rain was expected through Sunday evening, the official KUNA news agency reported meteorological authorities as saying.

School classes and exams across the country would be suspended on Monday due to the weather, it added.

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