Flooding of the Built Environment in the Middle Eastern Desert Regions: Guest Post 18

Flood knows no limits – Cities in the Middle Eastern Desert Regions are not spared from flood disasters.

Flooding crisis news in Oman contributed by Alper Durmus (B.S. Civil Engineering, 2004), currently M.S. graduate student at The University of Mississippi, United States.

Flooding disaster review in Saudi Arabia contributed by F. Qureshi.

Recent worldwide rainfall, coastal disasters, and flooding events indicate increased rainfall intensity and frequency resulting in unprecedented damage to infrastructure, loss of properties and lives, and disruptions to commerce, industrial production, and everyday life. Most of the built-up area within a city is “impervious” due to roads, interchanges, buildings parking areas, and other constructed areas. The torrential rainfall and resulting runoff produce flash floods which produce hazards and destruction in the built environment, especially in crowded cities even in desert regions of the Middle East.


Muscat, Oman:

    Muscat, Oman, Flood of November 2, 2011 (Credit: http://gulfnews.com)

  • Muscat, the capital city of the Sultanate of Oman once again suffered from flooding on November 2, 2011 due to the torrential rains. “The capital city was inundated for several hours after the heavy downpours, which began at around 2:00pm”, reported sott.net.
  • Gulf News reported that “The torrential rain lashed parts of Oman, mainly Muscat, for over three hours on Wednesday”. GulfNews also points out that “The death toll from last Wednesday’s heavy rains in different parts of Oman has reached 12”. Al Nahda Hospital flooded with rain water.
  • According to sott.net, a few buildings in relatively low areas in Sur collapsed due to the heavy rain and “the flooded roads created huge traffic jams, accidents, and pile-ups in several parts of the city. Vehicles parked on roadsides were swept away by water, creating chaos in the city. A couple of cars and a pickup truck were washed away as the water level kept rising in Ruwi Wadi”.
  • Rocky formation of the surrounding mountains and relatively low density of sand dunes in the urban areas increase the vulnerability of the city to flooding. The capacity of the drainage system, under these conditions, proves insufficient and the infrastructure of the urban areas, as a result of the flooding which happens once almost every year, should be re-evaluated and improved accordingly to prevent further economic and humanitarian losses.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia:

    Flooding in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, January 2011 (Credit: Arab News)

  • Heavy rainfall on January 26, 2011 broke previous record of November 2009 in Saudi City of Jeddah. More than 7.5 cm (3 inch) rain fell in a few hours compared to a normal average of 2.5 cm (1 inch) in a month. This caused severe flooding leaving the city under water for 24 hours to several days. Flood devastation resulted in economic losses of millions of dollars in addition to human lives. The Jeddah floods of January 26, 2011 killed 11 people and those of 2009 killed 120 people according to Arab News, January 26-29, 2011.
  • As reported in Arab News, according to a Jeddah Municipal Council official “the reason the Um Al-Khayr dam burst on January 26 was because the overflow outlet had been blocked by cars washed into it by flash flooding resulting from the huge downpour. This caused waters to rise to dangerous levels. The burst dam caused massive flooding and extensive damage throughout the city.”
  • Jeddah’s population increased from 1 million in 1980 to 3 million in 2009 which is spread over a large area of 560 sq km. The large constructed area causes flash floods where there is torrential rainfall and adversely affects communities due to high urban density.

Dr. Uddin’s note: The Middle Eastern countries in arid regions, just like most countries in other parts of the world with heavy seasonal rainfall, are prone to flood hazards for which most cities and communities are not adequately prepared. A comprehensive “flood hazard mitigation and early flood warning system” will need a practical approach by adapting appropriate floodplain models and simulation tools combined with remote sensing and geospatial technologies.

You can read other related posts on flood disasters in Thailand, Pakistan, and the United States.

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