8 die as heavy rains lash Kingdom

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Updated 19 November 2015

8 die as heavy rains lash Kingdom

JEDDAH: Heavy rains and wind lashed Jeddah and other parts of the country on Tuesday, causing the death of eight people, flooding of streets and underpasses, uprooting of trees, and widespread power cuts.
Two people died in the Faisaliyah district when they were electrocuted while clinging to an electric lamppost in a flooded street, while two others were injured, according to reports.
In Hail, the body of a child was pulled out of Wadi Bida bin Khalaf, said Maj. Nafi Al-Harbi, spokesman of the Civil Defense in the region. He said a team of divers found the body, while a search is underway for another child. The two children are brothers, aged 9 and 12. A Sudanese child was also rescued in the same valley.
In Yanbu, the Civil Defense divers recovered the bodies of five people, including two children, from flooded areas in Al-Bathna village. A search for another person is underway in Wadi Al-Jafr, 40 km away from Madinah, according to a report quoting Col. Khaled Mubarak Al-Johani, spokesman of Civil Defense in Madinah.
King Abdul Aziz International Airport issued a statement saying that eight domestic flights were delayed because of the inclement weather. One international flight was diverted to Madinah.
With the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment predicting further bad weather until the end of the week, Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil announced that schools in Jeddah would remain closed on Wednesday.
International Indian School-Jeddah Principal Syed Masood Ahmad confirmed that Wednesday would be a holiday and had informed students via text messages. Pakistani International School in Jeddah’s Aziziah district has announced it would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Many underpasses were flooded prompting the authorities to shut them. A number of Saudis and expatriates were seen in the streets and alleyways pushing their vehicles out of knee-deep water. Some broken down vehicles whose engines had taken water had been left on the roadsides.
According to a Civil Defense statement, nearly 3,000 calls were made to the rescue teams from distressed people. There were 11 reported cases of trees being uprooted and billboards crashing down on main streets.
The timely forecast of bad weather on Monday, that resulted in the Education Ministry announcing schools’ suspension on Tuesday, was praised by parents.
“The saying, being forewarned is forearmed, turned out to be a big blessing on Tuesday,” said Muneer Al-Abyad, a graduate student at King Abdul Aziz University.
“I remember the horrible tragedy of 2009 when I was caught in a street with my family. We had no rain forecast then and we weren’t prepared for the deluge that caused such havoc.”
As the rains pounded the city, emergency response crews advised residents to stay indoors and to avoid underpasses. There were repeated announcements from mosques during Dhuhr prayers urging the faithful to pray at home.
In some districts, the situation was compounded by power cuts. The Jeddah municipality, through its social media account, said there were waterlogged roads and tunnels because of the machines that pump out water were not functioning because of lack of power. It said there was no electricity at pumps installed at seven tunnels in various localities of Jeddah. The Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) stated on Tuesday that there were widespread power cuts in the Western and Eastern Regions because of the heavy rain and flooding. Technicians were working to restore the power, but would wait for assistance from the Civil Defense and other government agencies because some areas were inaccessible because of the heavy flooding.
According to the information issued for motorists, there was heavy flooding in Palestine Street, Prince Majed Street underpass, Sari Street at the junction of King Fahd Road, Tahliya Street, Naseem district, Kilo 14 and Kilo 11.
Roads that were closed included Naseem Street, Arabaeen Street, King Fahd Road in front of Souk Bawadi, Palestine Street at the junction of Madinah Road, Jeddah-Makkah highway, Sheikh Mohammed bin Jabir Street and Sabaeen Street at the intersection of Gharnata and Quraish streets.
While many were struggling on the flooded roads and streets, others, mostly children, were excited and making merry in the showers, like Munawwar Ansari, a student at Pakistani International School in Aziziah.
“The schools are closed and it is a day of fun for us,” exclaimed an excited Ansari, as he splashed his feet in the street water along with a group of friends in Jeddah’s Mushrefah district.
The streets in Aziziah, especially where most of the popular Pakistani restaurants are located, were flooded and at one point the rising water nearly lifted the vehicles. They bobbed on the water like boats in the sea.
In Rawdah district, the scene was no different. But because of construction activity and digging, the rain water had an outlet. “The area of the roads that were dug for laying pipelines were turned into water canals,” said R.T., a Filipino national.
“That turned out to be a blessing otherwise the standing and rising water would have created more havoc,” he said. The Filipino national said he woke up to find his carpet in his ground floor flat covered with water.
Jeddah received 22 mm on Tuesday morning. That is far less than the 90 mm rainfall on that fatal day in November 2009. Heavier rains fell in the northwestern city of Tabuk, near Jordan, where 46 mm were recorded since Monday, said Hussein Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the PME.

— With input from Fouzia Khan

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 19 min 59 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”


 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.