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Riyadh in Saudi Arabia was inundated with floodwaters late on Saturday 16 November 2013, disrupting road traffic and prompting authorities to close schoolsi and urge residents to stay indoors. Four people are reported dead and 10 missing as a result of the flooding. Two of the dead and 7 of the missing are from the capital, Riyadh, the others from the northeastern city of Arar. Emergency teams have rescued 1,357 people since Monday, the official SPA news agency reported.
Power to parts of the city of 5 million was knocked out, tunnels were flooded and many roads were impassable owing to flooding. One of the highest buildings in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom Towers, was reportedly struck by lightning during the storms.
The flooding was caused by a slow moving storm system moving southward over Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. The same storm system is expected to produce rounds of locally heavy rainfall and flooding across eastern Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran until at least Thursday.
Saudi Arabia’s rainy season runs from November to May, with the bulk of its annual average of 74mm falling in April (16mm), and only 14mm of rain falling during the five-month period June to October. Looking at recent records, it is noticeable that flooding has been recorded in the months of January, May or November of several years. In 2013, flooding has been reported in Saudi Arabia in all of these three months.
Over 120 people died in flooding in Jeddah on the west coast in November 2009, this was officially blamed on unauthorized urbanisation , but it has been alleged that the second largest city in Saudi Arabia has no sewerage systemv (the US$30m allocated for sewerage and storm-water systems in the 1980’s was apparently siphoned off by officialsvi), and that only 30% of the city has (inadequate) storm-water drainagevii so the run-off water had nowhere to go but into streets, homes and buildings.
Flooding again occurred in Jeddah in January 2011, during which 18 000 people were displaced and 10 people died.
In May 2012, 20 people were killed in floods caused by the kingdom’s highest rainfall in 25 years.