Saturday, November 28, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours, Then it Floods – Jeddah, KSA 25.Nov.09

Ask anyone who lives in Jeddah and everyone will tell you that they have never seen an outpouring like this in their whole life. I have lived in the desert coast by the Red Sea for the last 6 years and I can count only with my fingers the times that I have seen rain here. Rains that could be aptly described as brief showers and drizzles in most parts of the world. What’s sad is, according to latest reports, the “showers” that we call in our home countries tragically claimed many lives of people. Many more have been injured or displaced in this highly urbanized place.

It was a sandstormy yet sunny morning in Al Laith, around 180 kilometers south of Jeddah. I was wondering why there was a sudden sandstorm that day. It was unexpected because weather during this period should be cool and sunny. Nevertheless, it was all set that I drive Sani, my Malaysian friend to the airport for his vacation. We have earlier cancelled the airport conveyance provided by our Transportation Section so even when Abubaker, my Saudi staff warned me about the heavy downpour and the flood n Jeddah, the risk-taker in me prompted me to go ahead.

We prepared my 25-day old Rav-4 Sports to brave the sandstorm by asking Tusar, my Bangladeshi staff, to dub the front side of the car with “Fairy”. Fairy is local brand of a liquid soap that is believed by folks here to help protect the lights and bumper of cars from being blasted by the sand while driving high speed along the highway. Little did we know that it was not the sandstorm that we should have prepared for but the floodwaters that at that time was already wrecking havoc in Jeddah.

We had a brief stopover on our way to Jeddah, just beyond Al Shoaibah Desalination & Power Plant to capture the sudden change of the weather. This was the point when the sandstorm stopped and replaced by cool breeze and dark rain clouds above us.

These shots were taken in Al Kumrah, a place before entering Jeddah. The floodwaters covered all the low level places and littering the place with debris.

Despite having only some limited time before Sani's flight, we managed to have a quick stop in the bridge to get a shot of the place underneath it. We proceeded to take the Ring Road to the Airport only to find out that traffic was closed. We had to look for alternate routes and eventually decided to take the Madinah Road via Al Andalus and Herra Streets. It took us almost 5 hours (instead of 2) to find our way from Al Laith to the Airport.

Photos taken on my way back from the airport. Heavy downpour in the city, filling the underpasses and causing traffic jams in almost all the streets. It is not clear in the above pictures but a van and a bus were submerged in the underpass leaving speculations that many cars were submerged there, too.

I have seen police officers everywhere but they seemed to be helpless. I got caught in this traffic jam for around 3 hours. My only consolation was to listen to beautiful music and make every-now-and-then mobile updates and comments un Facebook.

As in any calamity, we find heroes. The photos above show young Saudi boys trying to do the traffic in the streets where police officers were not available. They begged motorists who were hardheaded and who did not want to follow safety warnings to divert to other routes.

The flooding rain may have disrupted Jeddah and may have caused many of the pilgrims to be stranded in highways, but the rain and the floods were no dampener to the spirit of Hajj. Here you can see goats and sheeps (to be used for sacrifice) being carried for business despite the weather condition. On our way to Jeddah, we have seen merchants running after their camels that escaped from their pens, probably frightened by the rain and the floods.

Three days have passed since that Wednesday's devastating flood and many blame the poor drainage system of the city to be the main cause of the floods. The downpour paralyzed the entire city, just two days ahead of the Eid holidays, leaving the city’s shaky infrastructure crippled, perhaps for years to come.

As of this blogpost, 350 people are still missing, and the latest death toll is 98. The claim that more than 2,000 cars have been damaged may not be an exaggeration after all. Many questions have been asked in the wake of the rains in Jeddah and many people says that what happened was a man-made problem.

Some Videos on the Flood


  1. I was shocked, grabeh pala ang nangyari a Jeddah, I hope and pray na wala tayong mga kababayan na naging biktima sa kalamidad.

    Thank you for your info and a blessed holiday.

  2. governments should really take heed and act now on the impacts of climate change. part na ito. everywhere, but they are still lost in the rhetorics and science and politics of it. in the meantime many are suffering because of lack of preparedness. policy makers etc need more proof, more research results, more modeling, more whatever to move and act and do something, but the proof is there right before their eyes.

  3. Mahina ako sa Meteorology pero masasabi kong ang mga nangyayaring ito sa mundo ay ang sinasabi ng mga dalubhasang 'climate change' o 'global warming'. Better late than never, we need to do something to save the earth!

    ...more or less 100 eucalyptus seedlings ang naitanim ko this year dito sa farm. Next year dadamihan ko pa. Sa Jeddah po ba ano ang maitatanim? Dates? Uhmn... Parang kayo po ay nagli-limit na rin sa emissions ng green-house gases, madalang na kayong mag-blog sa nakalipas na ilang buwan... U

    [Maganda ang 'capture' niyo ng buong pangyayari. Talo ang ABS-CBN at ang The Philippine Daily Inquirer sa style na ito. o",) ]

  4. ito na ang resulta sa di pagpaaphalaga sa ating kalikasan. dapat mag action ang mga pamahalaan ng mundo para maging ganap ang pagsulong ng earth climate change issues.

  5. Oh dear. Ngayon ko lang nalaman about the Jeddah Flood. There was a little rain here in Alkhobar last 25th. Ambon lang talaga. I didn't realize that somewhere in Saudi, something bad had happened.

    Yes, I agree. Dinaig mo pa ang CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera sa pagbabalita. I scrooled among these news channels during the holiday at ni isa, wala akong nabalitaan na nagreport ng Jeddah flood.

    Thanks, NJ, for this extensive reporting. And yes, happy Eid na rin kahit pa binaha kayo.

  6. Grabe nga itong nangyayaring ito. Lahat ng inyong nakita dito ay nasaksihan namin, hindi naman siguro lahat dahil hindi naman kami lumabas nung nagbaha dahil baka ma-stranded pa kami.

    Dapat bigyan na ng halaga ng Saudi ang mga floodways nila. Kasi except na i-develop nila ay binarahan pa nila. Yung ilang mga floodways kasi dito ay tinabunan at ginawa na ring kalsada kaya ayun.

    Meron kaming kakilala na nagta-trabaho sa government na naka-assign sa dam ang sabi ay may crack daw ito kaya meron silang maximum level ng tubig na pag na-reach ay nagpapakawala talaga sila ng tubig. Kaya kahit di umuulan sa ibang part ng Jeddah ay nagbabaha pa rin yung mga mabababang part nito.

    So far wala akong nabalitaang nasaktang pinoy. Thank God. Napadaan lang po.

  7. Merry Christmas, NJ.

  8. ay sus!!! parang nangyari sa Pinas nuong Ondoy ito. Thanks God maayos nman po kayo sa inyong paglalakbay. These photos are not seen in the news, I mean not all. Your post is a window from far. add ko po kayo sa blog roll ko, pwede po ba paadd na rin. :)