RIYADH: At least two people died on Thursday as heavy rains hit western Saudi Arabia, including Jeddah, delaying flights and forcing schools to close, officials said.
“Two deaths have been recorded so far, and we call on everyone not to go out unless necessary,” Makkah regional government said on its Twitter page.
The road connecting Jeddah and Makkah was closed on Thursday once the rains began, Saudi Press Agency said, although it was later reopened.
Al-Ekhbariya channel showed footage of worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah circling the Kaaba under a heavy downpour.
In Jeddah, images posted to social media showed standing water snarling traffic and partially submerging some vehicles.
The city's King Abdulaziz International Airport said that “due to weather conditions, the departure of some flights has been delayed” and urged passengers to contact carriers for up-to-date schedules.
SPA reported before dawn that schools in the city would temporarily be closed as rains were forecast to continue throughout the day.
Schools were also closed in the nearby towns of Rabigh and Khulais “to preserve the safety of male and female students", SPA added.
The National Center of Meteorology recorded 179 mm of rainfall on Thursday, the highest amount ever received in the city.
Rain fell from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the south of the province in a heavier downpour than the previous biggest, in 2009.
Makkah Municipality employs 11,800 field workers to prepare for the rainy season. It has machinery and equipment to deal with the expected conditions.
Its operation and maintenance department assesses the performance of rainwater drainage network channels in main and side roads, intersections and squares.
It removes sediment which can impede water flow in drainage systems, in accordance with contingency plans.
Task forces and equipment have been deployed throughout Makkah, with some 52 water tanks, each with a capacity of 194,000 gallons, removing floodwaters.
Some 146 excavating machines and 89 multipurpose trucks have been dealing with the impact of the rain and removing water from the roads and streets.
The municipality has also organized field teams to remove waste that may have built up in the wake of the downpours.
It has also increased the number of cleaning teams to work on clearing sewers to prevent any dangers that may pose a threat to residents and visitors.
The teams have been deployed along with 520 machines, including lorries, pump tanks, Bobcats, tankers and automated sweepers, as well as a large number of pumps and excavating machines.
Work is being carried out around the clock to implement contingency plans.
Makkah contains huge rainwater drainage systems that reach around 540 km and cover all of the region’s neighborhoods and holy sites.
The systems include closed trunk water mains and deep tunnel networks, as well as shallow and open drainage channels.
The municipality also carries out maintenance and cleaning operations throughout the year to help reduce the effects of flooding on the region.