DOHA – Qatar was hit by widespread flash flooding on Saturday as the desert state received almost a year’s worth of rainfall in one day.
Roads became impassable, air traffic was disrupted and homes were flooded, while shops and universities closed.
Qatar broadcaster Al Jazeera’s senior meteorologist, Steff Gaulter, tweeted that one part of the capital Doha had experienced almost a year’s worth of rain on Saturday.
“Abu Hamor (a suburb) now reporting 59.8 mm. (Doha average annual rainfall is 77 mm.),” she wrote.
By early evening it was estimated that 61 mm of rain had fallen.
Qatar Airways was forced to divert some flights, creating logistical headaches, as neighbors Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are among states that do not allow Doha to use their airspace, due to an ongoing diplomatic rift.
Some Qatar-bound flights were forced to divert to Kuwait and Iran and the airline warned its passengers to expect further problems.
“Due to weather conditions over Doha, flights are subject to delays for departure and arrivals,” Qatar Airways said on Twitter.
Qatar’s public works authority issued a warning to drivers to avoid tunnels because of the flooding.
Social media in Qatar showed cars almost completely submerged under water, after thunderstorms over Doha.
Other footage showed rainwater running downstairs inside buildings as workers desperately tried to mop up.
Qatar’s National Library, not yet a year old, was forced to close and said it would remain shut on Sunday to ensure the “safety of our users.”
The U.S. embassy also said it would be closed on Sunday, “due to weather conditions.”
The extent of the flooding may cause concern for the authorities who have spent billions on major infrastructure projects ahead of hosting the World Cup in 2022.
Some sought to downplay the disruption, joking online there was now no need for Saudi Arabia to dig a canal around Qatar — an apparent threat made by Riyadh as part of the continuing political tensions — because the flooding had done the neighboring power’s job for it.