It rained across the Emirates today. That used to be news here, but it seems the past several months have brought about more rainy days than we've had in years.
When I see tomorrow's headlines I will expect to find not so much mention of the rain, as of the number of traffic accidents that will have occurred in Dubai. Several hundred, even up to a thousand seem to get recorded on days with heavy downpours. Most are minor, but one of the most tragic accidents ever occurred on a rainy day a couple of months ago, when a speeding bus lost control, flipped over the highway median and landed in the path of an oncoming van. Ten construction workers died; many more were injured.
Today's rain included marble-sized chunks of hail in the Dubai Marina area. The strong winds that accompanied it led to a fatality at the Princess tower construction site. A board from the scaffolding of a neighboring tower under construction landed on the head of a worker, killing him instantly. It would be a wonder if that were the only fatal or near fatal construction site accident. Nearly the whole of Dubai Marina is a highrise tower construction zone, as is Jumeirah Lake Towers, Business Bay, Burj Dubai Downtown and other areas.
The rain, of course, is welcomed by most, despite the nuisances. (How many will have just got their cars thoroughly cleaned after the last spate of showers, just four or five days ago?) I have heard it said that all this rain is a sign of the times--climate change, you know. Why is it that the notion of climate change is automatically associated with peril? Change isn't by definition a negative event. Imagine if indeed rain became a norm of sorts in desert climates like the UAE's. That would be cause for celebration.
Dubai and other emirates in the UAE have already managed to turn barren desert real estate into highly sought after property. If the desert were to naturally begin to turn green the value of land in this country would rocket up even faster. Landscaping would become much less costly and fewer desalination plants would need to be built. Just yesterday, in fact, the Dubai government announced plans to construct a new US $1.5 billion plant. If the rains were here to stay, then perhaps that money could instead go toward a few more highway projects!
I got caught in the rain today in Abu Dhabi's western region--home to all of the underground oil and gas reserves. The children in the night class I was teaching at got sent home early. One came rushing into class like Paul Revere, trumpeting the onset of a hurricane. "You mean strong wind," I corrected him. Sure enough, however, his description was more apt than mine. When I stepped out onto the open walkway the cascading wind and rain was nearly of hurricane proportions, albeit shortlived.
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