Dubai rain: Stranded residents spent night, over 16 hours at Mall of Emirates

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Mariefred San Jose and others spend the night at the food court of Mall of Emirates on April 16, 2024.

Several Dubai residents who were stranded due to widespread flooding and rain on April 16 said they sought shelter and spent the night at Mall of Emirates.

Speaking to Expat Media, Mariefred San Jose said she “never imagined” that it would happen to her in her nine years of experience in Dubai. San Jose said she and her colleagues spent over 16 hours at the mall, more than two hours walking there and two more hours stuck at the metro station. “It was truly an experience of a lifetime,” she said.

“Even the mall staff were stranded! They closed the mall that night, but also opened it the next morning,” San Jose told Expat Media. “We were all soaking wet and really exhausted. We stayed at the food court and slept on the diner seats. Some slept on the floor. Luckily, mall management let us stay there overnight,” she said.

The UAE experienced “unprecedented rainfall” on Tuesday, with authorities calling it the highest rainfall level ever recorded the country in 75 years. The rainfall left hundreds of motorists and commuters stranded as roads quickly became submerged in floodwaters. Buildings and major malls in Dubai were also flooded, as well as residential communities like Discovery Gardens, International City and Mudon in Dubailand, one of the worst hit by flooding.

How it started

Recounting her experience, the Filipina said that she and three colleagues were told to leave work early that Tuesday due to the worsening weather conditions. They had no idea what lay head until they reached the nearby Onpassive metro station at 2:15pm. Train services there were suspended due to flooding.

“RTA officers were there to help passengers. They said that there was no train stopping at Equiti and Onpassive metro stations. They arranged for a free bus ride going to Mall of Emirates so we can take the train towards Centrepoint station on our way home,” she said.

Dead cat and dangerous walk to MOE

“Unfortunately, the road which we were supposed to take was flooded already and buses could not pass through, so we went back to Onpassive metro station. We stayed there until 3:30pm, and then decided to just walk to the Mall of Emirates metro station,” she said.

Determined to head home one way or another, San Jose said she and her fellow Filipinos braved the heavy rain and strong winds. “We crossed barricades just to get through. All of us helped each other to climb through,” she said, “Our plan was to take the train home from Mall of Emirates.”

The group waded through waist-deep floodwaters in some areas, San Jose said. “Some of the cars got stuck in the flood, some people helped each other move their cars to avoid the rising floodwaters. I even saw a dead cat on the way that really made me sad as I imagined how helpless it was,” she said.

Dubai rain: Stranded residents spent night, over 16 hours at Mall of Emirates

The group made it to Mall of Emirates metro station at 5:51pm. “It was crowded and the monitor showed that the next train will arrive at 7:29pm,” she said. Wet, tired and hungry, they looked for something to eat and passed the time with some snacks.

“We waited until 7:45pm when an announcement came from RTA officers saying the train was still not working. We didn’t leave at that point as I was thinking maybe they will re-open after a few minutes. After almost an hour, they announced that all train services were suspended until April 17 due to electrical issues,” she said.

Night at the mall

“At that point, we decided to head into the mall and find a place to rest as we were all soaking wet and really exhausted,” she said.

“People were everywhere inside the mall and got stranded, too. One of the shops got flooded as water leaked from the ceiling,” she said.

The group walked to the food court where they were eventually forced to stay the night. Other stranded shoppers stayed there, too. Some slept on diner chairs, others slept on the floor. San Jose estimates that more than 200 people were stranded at the mall. “People from different nationalities. Tourists, mall staff, people who chose to walk there, families with their toddlers, groups of friends and people on their own,” she said.

“We were able to eat at the food court that night. In the morning, we had coffee from the machine and bought croissants at Carrefour. We made sure we carried bottled water to stay hydrated. Toilets were busy, but thankfully the mall management allowed us to use the toilets overnight. We had free Wifi access from the mall so we were able to update our loved ones about our situation,” she recalled.

Escape plan

San Jose said she woke up at 4:30am the next day to wait for the metro to reopen. “At around 6am, they announced that the train still wasn’t operational. That was our last hope. We decided to just have breakfast at the mall and wait for the floods to subside,” she said.

Dubai rain: Stranded residents spent night, over 16 hours at Mall of Emirates

By 9am, she and her group tried to contact a colleague to fetch them with a van. “We were tired and desperate to reach home,” she said. Navigating road closures and waterlogged roads, help finally arrived at 11:30am. “We made many detours because some roads were closed, others were flooded. But we finally reached Bur Dubai at 1:30pm,” she said.

San Jose said the experience taught her that in emergency situations, one needs to be “sharp, calm and avoid panicking”. “Try to get more information from the government’s announcement as much as you can so you will know your next move. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people around you,” she added.

The Filipina also said that the experience brought out the best in humanity. “There is no rich or poor, employers or employees. We should help as much as we can and work together regardless of race or nationality because in the end we are all human beings, and brothers and sisters,” she mused. PIA/Expat Media

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