Downpour forces schools’ closure



RIYADH: Md Rasooldeen & Md Al-Sulami

Published — Sunday 28 April 2013

Last update 29 April 2013 7:37 am

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Rescue teams had their hands full on Saturday as heavy rains caused flooding in parts of the kingdom, stranding many people and forcing the suspension of classes in some areas.
Civil Defense authorities received at least 10,735 emergency calls from people affected by the bad weather as of Saturday afternoon, mostly about accidents, people getting stuck in water-clogged areas and vehicles getting trapped in inundated valleys and tunnels.
As a precautionary measure, the Ministry of Education told schools in at least five governorates in Riyadh province as early as Friday not to open.
“The suspension’s decision was taken due to a continuation of rains in these provinces,” said a ministry statement carried by SPA.
Mohammed Al-Dakheeni, the ministry’s spokesman, said the governorates were Quwaiyiah, Dawadmi, Hota, Hariq and Kharj.
The ministry’s announcement, however, was issued at around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, which meant that many parents who went to bed early did not know about the decision until they turned up with their children at the school gates.
Some schools failed to pass on the information to parents and teachers even though they had received the ministry’s message.
The emergency calls from Riyadh topped the list, recording 2,200 SOS messages from 7 p.m. on Friday until yesterday evening. 
In Riyadh, there were eight accidents. Traffic department officials rescued two motorists trapped in their vehicles. Five people who suffered electric shocks, were reported recovering in the capital.
Meanwhile, heavy rains fell in the Hail region yesterday, stranding more than 50 vehicles at different locations. In the village of Murayfiq south of the region, Civil Defense teams and helicopters were deployed to rescue citizens. In addition, the Civil Defense in Hail registered around 700 incidents, including two people who were rescued from a dilapidated building.
Hail’s Education Department Committee for Emergencies held a meeting in the morning to discuss measures to be taken to deal with the current weather conditions.
Capt. Abdulraheem Al-Juhani, spokesman for Hail Civil Defense, quoted the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment as forecasting low and medium-level clouds that will likely continue to form and may include thunderclouds, accompanied by rain and strong winds in Hail and neighboring regions. He requested the public to listen to Civil Defense announcements, warnings and guidelines.
In Najran, there were 15 emergency calls from drivers trapped in their vehicles in the floods. They were later rescued. In addition, authorities provided shelter to 15 families affected by the rains.
Col. Abdullah Al-Harthy, Civil Defense media spokesman, said that there were no fatalities and that security forces were on high alert. 
Rains in the capital caused huge traffic snarls yesterday morning, as rain fell incessantly in the morning and intermittently in the afternoon. The public was able to take precautions due to the timely warning by government agencies. 
The Ministry of Education instructed all principals to close schools yesterday. 
The ministry’s announcement, however, was issued at around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, which meant that many parents who went to bed early did not know about the decision until they turned up with their children at the school gates.  
Some schools failed to pass on the information to parents and teachers even though they had received the ministry’s message early.
Seyed Hameed Moulana, who takes his grandchildren to school, said the Sri Lankan International School informed him of the weather conditions at 12.15 a.m. yesterday. However, he said the timely advice of the Riyadh Civil Defense Department helped motorists to take extra precaution in selecting safer routes to work and back. 
“Old and new industrial areas of the city were badly affected by the heavy rain. However, the advanced warning by authorities helped the public a great deal to be prepared for any eventualities,” Moulana added.

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