Tuesday 19 November 2013

At least four dead in Ridyadh flooding.

Four people including one child are known to have died and at least five more are missing in flooding in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Heavy rain began to fall in the desert city on Saturday 16 November 2013, and is predicted to continue till at least the middle of the week, leading to floodwaters 4-5 m deep in the worst hit areas. Details of the deceased have not yet been released, but it is understood the one was a 26 year old Yemeni woman caught in a flash flood while trying to escape from a trapped car, and that the other three were members of the same family killed in a traffic incident. In addition over a hundred people have had to be rescued by civil defense authorities, schools and public services are largely closed, some streets are blocked by abandoned vehicles and some parts of the city are without power.

Abandoned vehicles on the streets of Riyadh. Saudi Gazette.

A further fourteen people are thought to have died in flooding in other areas of Saudi Arabia during the last week. Flooding and snowfall have also caused chaos in Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar and Syria.

Flooding on the streets of Baghdad. Karim Kadim/AP.

Like many desert areas the Arabian Peninsula, while generally arid, is prone to occasional severe flooding. This stems from two causes; firstly the arid climate prevents the development of a thick soil layer which would be expected in less dry areas, so that in much of the area (non-porous) bedrock is either exposed or close to the surface, and secondly the hot climate leads to heavy evaporation from nearby seas and oceans, so that if the wind changes direction and brings water-laden air to the area, it brings a lot of precipitation with it. This combination of heavy rainfall and low ground absorbance leads to large amounts of water at the surface, typically moving downhill at some speed.

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