U.A.E. : Extreme Weather Hits Parts of Dubai


Extreme weather hits parts of Dubai

Dubai - Jan 15: Heavy rain and hailstorms have lashed parts of Dubai, but completely missed other areas of the city.

In parts of The Greens, Media City and Jebel Ali, 1cm-diametre hailstones gathered on the ground, giving the areas a wintery appearance, while water accumulated up to 50cm deep on the roads, causing traffic chaos.

Areas around Dubai Creek remained dry however, as the highly localised storms passed by without drenching them.

Dubai expatriate Salam Hafez said he saw first hand how localised the storm was while driving through the city.

"Along Sheikh Zayed Road, it was bad for about 10 minutes and then you come out (of the rain zone) and it's like nothing happened," he said.

"During the rain, everyone slowed down to about 60kmh and had their hazard lights on."

In the Greens, he saw 1cm hailstones.

"It was horrendous. There was no visibility because of the hailstorm," he said.

"There were hailstones accumulating on the ground but it was so windy, it was being driven horizontally. The hailstones didn't last long on the ground."

But he said the rain had flooded roads to up to 50cm and the water was not draining away quickly.

"It will probably be a disaster in the morning."

At Media City, flooding on the roads near the Radisson Hotel reached 15cm and was causing traffic chaos.

Another observer from the hotel said the storm lasted over an hour and rekindled memories of floods a year ago in Dubai which caused major disruptions in the city.
"This could be another disaster," he said.

"This time last year, there was really really bad that flooded everything everywhere. It shut down the city for two days."

Last night, heavy rain had lashed Khalifa City B on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. An inch of rain flooded some roads, with one heavy 20 minute burst during a thunderstorm that lasted several hours.

Tariq Cordeiro, a 34 year-old filmmaker, was preparing to go to Dubai when the heavy rain began.

“I was concerned about driving in the heavy rain, especially with the roads beginning to flood outside the house and decided to postpone the trip until tomorrow,” he said.

“It was refreshing to see rain like this as it hasn’t really rained this heavily in a long time.”

Seif Al Mutairi, 25, an English language student, was woken by the barking of his two dogs who were outside at the time the heavy downpour came down shortly before 8am.

“It’s unusual for the dogs to bark unless there is someone approaching the villa,” he said.

“When I got up to see what they were barking at, that’s when I saw the rain coming down, so I let them inside. They were soaking wet.”

Mr Al Mutairi, who arrived from Saudi Arabia in March of last year said it was the first time he had seen rain like this in Abu Dhabi.

“In fact, the last time I saw rain like this was almost three years ago in Jeddah,” he said.

The rain over Khalifa City lasted several hours with the most intense downpour lasting 20 minutes.

Light to medium rain also fell in Al Ain overnight, flooding some streets and roads there as well. And moderate windy rains lashed Ras Al Khaimah and neighbouring areas for the third consecutive day, causing a drop in temperature, the state news agency WAM reported.

According to the Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Meteorological Office, conditions will be partly cloudy and cool in Al Ain and Abu Dhabi until Friday with a chance of rain today in Al Ain.

Record seizures of animal goods

Dubai - Jan 15:  Customs officers last year seized a record number of elephant tusks, stuffed animals and other contraband from the international trade in endangered wildlife.

A total of 145 items were seized at Dubai airport and from searches of shipping containers last year, a 20 per cent increase on the 2007 total.

Last year’s haul included fur coats, stuffed crocodiles and a stuffed lion, with most of the confiscations being ivory.

The figures are only for seizures that led to criminal charges. No information was available on how many people were arrested or convicted.

Abdul Rahman al Saleh, the senior executive director of corporate affairs for Dubai Customs, said new scanning technology and other improvements to detection were probably responsible for the increase in seizures, rather than a rise in illicit trade.

“Dubai is a trade hub, so it is difficult to tell if whatever is coming in is for here, or whether it is in transit to Europe or elsewhere,” Mr al Saleh said.

“There are seizures from cargo containers, but most of the ivory we have seized is from individuals coming through the airport, people on transit visas.

“When they are bringing things like animal skins, we can usually tell that the final destination is not the UAE because handbags, ladies’ coats and other such items are not manufactured here.”

Mr al Saleh said live animals brought into the UAE for private zoos were occasionally seized, but often died soon after.

“It is not their natural habitat and travelling causes them a lot of harm,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a day or a month, but usually, despite our best efforts, they die in the end.”

Last year, an investigation by The National showed that white lion cubs, baby primates and exotic birds were being offered for sale at a desert ranch near Dubai.
The UAE is a signatory to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, and dealing in such animals is a violation of UAE law. Anyone caught breaking the convention, which has been signed by 172 countries, faces a fine of between Dh10,000 and Dh50,000 and up to six months in jail.

Azzedine Downes, the executive vice-president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said UAE authorities were making serious efforts to crack down on the trade but international penalties were not enough, compared to prices people would pay for such contraband, to deter criminals.

“The trade in exotic animals is usually ranked third in value behind arms and drugs smuggling,” Mr Downes said. “A recent report by Interpol puts its global value between $8bn to $10bn. It is an absolutely huge market. Business is good and the penalties for being involved are relatively low.

“A lot of it is ivory, but one of our biggest concerns at the moment is shahtoosh, a type of shawl made in India from Tibetan antelope. It is like a pashmina, but while a pashmina is made by shearing the animal, for a shahtoosh they have to be killed, and it takes 25 antelope to make one shahtoosh.”

Mr Downes said the shawls were available under the counter at a number of high-end boutiques in Dubai for up to Dh73,400 (US$20,000) each.

“In terms of awareness from the authorities, the UAE is very interested, and we have had a lot of help from customs, the police and the Ministry of the Environment,” he said.

“The problem is that it is a difficult thing to track. It involves a lot of small items being brought in by individuals.”

Dubai Customs will launch a campaign today to educate the public about the consequences of buying endangered animals or products made from them, with the slogan: “If you don’t buy, they will not die.”

“There are health issues with having some of these things in your home and we want to make people aware of the environmental costs,” Mr al Saleh said. “Dubai Customs is committed to enforcing the international, regional and national laws that are in place to fight this trade.”


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