British couple ‘close to tears’ after being stranded at Dubai airport in historic storm

The couple have been told they can only escape Dubai airport hell on a flight to Gatwick in three days still landing 230 miles away from their Manchester home.

Barney Davis
Wednesday 17 April 2024 21:33 BST
Cat rescued from Dubai floods after torrential rain brings chaos to UAE

A British couple are tucking up for the night at Dubai International Airport after their 50th wedding anniversary ended in disarray when a historic storm hit the desert nation.

Thousands of people have been left stranded at the transport hub desperate for information after Tuesday’s torrential rain, described “as a historic weather event” that surpassed anything documented since records began in 1949.

The storm had initially hit Oman on Sunday, where at least 20 people are reported to have died, before the torrential rain pounded the UAE on Tuesday, knocking out power and causing huge disruptions to flights as runways were turned into rivers.

Following Tuesday’s flooding, questions were raised over whether cloud seeding, a process that the UAE frequently conducts, could have caused the heavy rains. Cloud seeding is a process in which chemicals are implanted into clouds to increase rainfall.

The UAE, located in one of the hottest and driest regions on earth, has been leading the effort to seed clouds and increase precipitation. But the UAE’s meteorology agency told Reuters there were no such operations before the storm.

Severe flooding in Dubai caused chaos on the road and forced many businesses to close (AFP/Getty)
A man walks through the devastating Dubai floods (REUTERS)

As Dubai reeled in the aftermath of the floods, retired airlines operation manager Tim Wilkinson and his wife Denise were left stranded on their milestone anniversary as they tried to catch a connecting flight home to Manchester after visiting Thailand for three weeks.

The couple, who have been stranded at the airport for nearly 24 hours, have been told they can get a flight to Gatwick - 230 miles away from their Manchester home - in three days.

Denise said: “I’m almost in tears here I can’t believe this wonderful trip has ended so badly. I’m feeling rough with being in this horrible air and lights to add to the mix.

“My eyes are so dry and itchy. Some of my clothes are going to walk home.”

She added: “It’s very cloudy not sure of the temperature outside this horrible place. Things are sent to try us I know it’s not so important in the big scheme of life but it has been a magical three weeks to come crashing down from in a place I don’t like and didn’t plan to visit ever again.”

Tucked up in Dubai International (Supplied)
Huge queues of people desperate to get information (Supplied)

Emirates staff struggled to book passengers in overcrowded hotels with many left to fend for themselves and sleep at the airport after staff simply “went home” and no-one replaced them.

Her husband Tim added: “It’s clear they have no contingency plans for this type of situation. Having all those aircraft flying round and round waiting for a slot on the ground is silly. They should have kept them on the ground at the outstation.”

Thousands of UK travellers are struggling to get home after Dubai International Airport was flooded by an intense storm (EPA)

Their daughter Jules told The Independent: “[Emirates] seem woefully unprepared for something that happens regularly. For someone so glitz and glam to take a week for them to back to Manchester. And once they get back to Gatwick - it’s ‘make your own way home’.

“How many hours driving? Or on a train? After how many nights in an airport? I’m pretty livid at what is supposedly one of the best airlines in the world.”

Emirates has cancelled seven flights between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) airport and the UK, with British Airways diverting or axing four.

The airport urged passengers to stay away “unless absolutely necessary” after it was hit by more than a year’s average rainfall in 24 hours.

Many flights were delayed by several hours on Tuesday, such as one operated by Emirates which landed at Heathrow more than five hours behind schedule at 9.30pm.

Paul Lidwith waiting at Dubai World Central airport (Paul Lidwith/PA Wire)

Paul Lidwith, 40, a solicitor from St Helens, Merseyside, said he was stranded for seven hours “without a single update”.

He was travelling with Emirates from New Zealand to Manchester via Sydney and Dubai, but his flight to Dubai International Airport was diverted to Al Maktoum International Airport, located an hour away in the city.

He said he has not been given any food or water, and claimed staff at Emirates had not provided information about his flight to Manchester.

A woman and her daughters eat as they wait for their flight (REUTERS)

He said: “This airport is for cargo planes and it deals with about maybe half a dozen flights a day.

“They couldn’t handle the flights that were diverted from Dubai International.

“We had to wait on the tarmac for nearly five hours.

“It took our total journey time from leaving Sydney to getting off the plane here to 22 hours.

“It’s just been an absolute disaster. We’re stuck here and seven hours without a single update is inexcusable.”

The Dubai international runway was left looking like an ocean (Zaheer Kunnath via REUTERS)

Emirates announced it had suspended check-in for passengers departing from Dubai from 8am on Wednesday for the rest of the day “due to operational challenges caused by bad weather and road conditions”.

It said in a statement: “Passengers arriving in Dubai and already in transit will continue to be processed for their flights.

“Customers can expect delays to departures and arrivals, and are advised to check the latest flight schedules on

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused. Emirates is working hard to restore our scheduled operations, and our teams will provide all possible support to affected customers.”

Emirates has been approached for further comment.

Cars drive in a flooded street following heavy rains in Dubai (AFP via Getty Images)

Jake McCulloch, 24, who moved from Maldon in Essex to Dubai in November, said he “hasn’t seen anything like” the “torrential” rain and flooding experience in recent days.

Mr McCulloch, who works in finance, said he had to wade through knee-deep water to get to his car on Tuesday to drive to his office at Dubai Marina.

“It’s been absolutely crazy, I’ve haven’t really ever seen anything like it,” Mr McCulloch told the PA news agency.

“There’s cars fully submerged under the water, I’m talking up to the roof.

“Driving back today, I’ve seen around 50 cars on the side of the road that are just completely written off.”

Mr McCulloch, who lives on the third floor of a four-storey apartment block in the Jumeirah Village Triangle, said most of the apartments in the building are leaking or flooded.

“Our neighbours had their ceiling fall through and my roommate’s bedroom was leaking through the door seals and the ceiling, and his whole room was probably an inch underwater,” he said.

“As the water started coming up to my apartment entrance, everyone was panicking.”

“We were moving cars, getting baby stuff out for people, a lot of people were very stressed,” he said.

“You could see they were scared and a lot of people had to move out last night and go elsewhere.”

More than 142mm (5.6 inches) of rain soaked Dubai over 24 hours. The average annual amount at the airport is 94.7mm (3.7 inches).

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