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Saudi on red alert as severe flooding leaves 18 dead

Saudi Arabia has seen nearly a week of severe flooding after rainstorms hit most of the kingdom
A man clears a building in Riyadh of flood water after a deluge earlier this week (AFP)

Severe rainstorms continued in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, after a week of severe flooding that has seen more than a dozen people killed and nearly 1,000 rescued, according to local authorities.

Eighteen people have been killed during heavy rains and floods over the past week the civil defence agency said on Thursday.

In a statement, it said the toll covered much of the country, from Riyadh to Hail, Mecca, Medina, Al-Baha, Asir, Najran and Jazan.

The agency said it rescued 915 people.

The southern province of Asir was put on red alert on Thursday as flooding swept the regional capital of Abha, where floods of rain water was filmed flowing through the streets.

Local authorities warned Abha residents not to drive their cars after a bridge under construction collapsed on the Riyadh-Abha road.

A spokesperson for Medina’s Red Crescent said that there had been at least 20 road traffic accidents in 12 hours, most of which took place on the al-Hijra highway.

On Wednesday, schools were closed and traffic brought to a halt in the capital Riyadh after it too was hit by flooding caused by the unusually stormy weather.

Footage showed waterfalls of rainwater flowing off roads and causing chaos for motorists who were left stranded by the extreme conditions.

Saudi authorities have implemented an emergency plan to deal with the flooding, the spokesman for the municipal council, Mohammed al-Shwayman, was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) as saying.

Residents were urged not to gather in affected areas "for the sake of taking pictures and videos, putting their lives at risk," he said. 

Saudi Arabia is famed for its searing temperatures and sees only occasional bursts of rain.