Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hajj and Eid Al-Adha 2009—The Unforeseen: A Deluge of Rain and Flooding

By Chiara

As most readers are aware, this year’s Hajj began with an unusually abundant rain storm lasting 3 hours that affected Makkah Province and Jeddah primarily, as well as areas up and down the coast from Jeddah itself. The news media and the blogosphere are still sorting whether the extent of the damage and the loss of life resulting could have been prevented by better infrastructure, and why that didn’t happen, while coping with the emergency responses required, and the prevention of further harms by the stagnation of accumulated water and the risks of mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever.

Impact on Hajj

Friday prayers before Hajj at the Grand Mosque, Makkah

Heavy rains in Makkah and the port city of Jeddah on the first day of Hajj, Wednesday November 25, 2009, slowed movement from Jeddah the main airport of entry for Hajjis, to Makkah but didn’t stop the flow of pilgrims moving on to Mina to begin the Hajj.

Video of rainfall during Hajj

While Mount Arafat was muddied, there are no deaths or accidents reported among the pilgrims due to the 3 hour deluge, although there have been 5 deaths from swine flu (all had underlying complications), yet less than 100 who fell ill, and a much smaller number taken to hospital for treatment.

Impact in Jeddah

When 7 cms of rain in about 3 hours, 1.5 years worth of Jeddah’s annual rainfall accumulated resulting in flash floods and mudslides, car slides, a major bridge down, major road upheaval, and objects and people swept away. To date Saudi officials report 106 deaths—swept away and presumed drowned, or crushed under debris, and collapsing roadways and homes, yet bodies are still being recovered. ~4000 cars were damaged or destroyed and lie abandoned in awkward heaps where they came to rest—right side up, upside down, or on their side. North Jeddah was not as affected as the South. The King Abdul Aziz University area was highly affected. Fortunately, faculty and students of KAU were on holiday for Hajj and Eid, or the death toll would have been higher. Building in the course of the development of the city of Jeddah that covered normal channels of water runoff (wadis), yet didn’t provide for adequate drainage, and Jeddah’s clay base beneath the sand seem to have contributed to the reasons for the damage.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency also reported deaths in Rabigh and Mecca, and Al Jazeera reports that 1400 people in Jeddah required rescue.

The following photos are from a Facebook site which contains almost 200 photos of the results of the rain in Jeddah recommended by an Anonymous commentator on John Burgess’ Crossroads Arabia, where John has been following developments in a number of posts, the most recent of which is here. The articles he has referenced deal with some of the human questions about why the rain had this result. This article is an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, by Prince Khalid al Faisal, Governor of Mecca, on the same topic, of why the flooding, and who is responsible, here. Local anger has resulted in a Facebook site in Arabic with 11,000 to 15, 000 members, "National Campaign to Save the City of  Jeddah".

Nathan at Saudi Aggie reported on the experience at KAUST in nearby Thuwal,"Rain in Thuwal (and lots of it!)" and provided the following photos among others:



Ahmed of Saudi Jeans, among the first to react, with a post entitled “Jeddah Disaster”, posted the following video of the rainstorm in Jeddah:

Susie of Arabia did a post on Susie's Big Adventure with her own pictures, "When It Rains, It Pours!", one of which is included on her Jeddah Daily Photo Journal:  "when it rains, it pours". Eman, of Saudiwoman Weblog, responded quickly to events with a plea, and a proposal, "God Help Jeddah".

A Jeddawi friend sent the following photos (taken on iphone) of the impact on King Abdul Aziz University:

Impact on Eid Al-Adha

Muslims around the world and in Saudi Arabia continue to celebrate the 3 days of Eid Al-Adha, as the pilgrims perform the final rituals of Hajj, and their final Stoning of the Devil.

Makkah, Saudi Arabia



Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC




Cairo, Egypt

All the articles and posts on the topic of the rain and the flooding provide multiple interesting debates and comments, but the one that struck me the most is one I received in an email from a Jeddawi friend on the 25th:

We are alive Alhamdillah. We are not among the 77 [now 106] who died in Jeddah as a result of 3 hours of non-stop rain. Shame on us!! Shame! No plans, no engineers, no brains in our beloved KSA?! I hope the number of casualties will not rise.

Those places that were affected were originally either built on valleys, or on places near the path where the water runs after a rain. Unfortunately, people tend to forget, so after long a period of geographical depression with no rain they feel secure to build on such places. That was the result. People died suffocating and sinking, sinking, sinking...

All thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered a loss in this most unplanned for event of Hajj 2009.

Any comments, thoughts, or experiences to share?


Chiara said...

Susie of Arabia said...
I thought the flooding was bad in our area in North Jeddah, but when I saw the photos of what happened in the south, I was shocked and felt fortunate that flooding in our area was only three feet deep. The damages and losses are incredible.
November 30, 2009 9:44 PM

Chiara said...

Susie--thanks for your comment. I understand there is even greater concern that Musk Lake will not be contained and will flood the East part of the city. There is very little reporting of this in any news but what is reported it discouraging, as it seems that the the rainfall was unusually intense and was the equivalent in 3 hours of 1.5 years worth normally, most of the damage is as a result of human errors. I'm glad you are safe!
November 30, 2009 11:02 PM


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