Sixteen people have died and three more are missing in Saudi Arabia after downpours caused flash floods in several areas of the kingdom, the civil defence authorities said yesterday. Two others died in flash floods in neighbouring Oman, local media reported, as cloudbursts swept across most Gulf countries.
The official Saudi SPA state news agency quoted a civil defence statement as saying people died in several areas including in the capital Riyadh, Baha in the south, Hail in the north and in the west. Earlier yesterday, the kingdom said 13 people had died and four were missing but later the civil defence statement updated the toll saying “the number of dead bodies retrieved until midday has risen to 16.”
It urged people to avoid wadi valleys and plains that have been flooded by heavy rainfall that began on Friday. Television footage showed 4X4 cars stuck in the middle of wadis and people clinging to a tree to escape fast-flowing flood waters.
Most of the casualties were in the country’s western and southern provinces, where many schools were closed. Interior Minister Prince Mohamed bin Naif said King Abdullah was “closely monitoring the situation and the efforts of the ministries and agencies to provide safety requirements”.
The country has not experienced such a high volume of rainfall for 25 years. But around 10 people were killed in 2011 when flooding swept through the western city of Jeddah, where 123 people also perished in floods in 2009. The inability of Jeddah’s infrastructure to drain off flood waters and uncontrolled construction in and around the city were blamed at the time for the high number of victims.