At least two people died as heavy rain lashed western Saudi Arabia on Thursday, including in the coastal city of Jeddah, delayed flights and forced the closure of schools, officials said.
“Two deaths have been recorded so far and we call on everyone not to go out unless absolutely necessary,” the Makkah regional government said on its Twitter page.
The Mecca region includes Jeddah, the second largest city in the kingdom with approximately four million people, and the city of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city where millions of people make the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages each year.
Officials said the road connecting the two, which many pilgrims use to reach Mecca, was closed on Thursday after it started raining, though it was later reopened.
State-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel showed footage of worshipers circumambulating the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca – the cubic structure that is the centerpiece of Islam – under heavy downpours.
In Jeddah, pictures posted on social media showed traffic jams caused by standing water and some vehicles partially submerged.
The city’s King Abdulaziz International Airport said that “due to weather conditions, departures of some flights have been delayed” and urged passengers to contact carriers for up-to-date schedules.
The official Saudi Press Agency reported before dawn that schools in the city would be temporarily closed as rain was forecast to continue throughout the day.
“Schools have also been closed in the nearby towns of Rabigh and Khulais for the safety of students and teachers,” SPA said.
The kingdom is in the middle of final exams, yet schools were already closed nationwide on Wednesday after King Salman declared a holiday following Argentina’s shock defeat at the World Cup.
Winter storms and floods hit Jeddah almost every year, where residents have long bemoaned poor infrastructure.
In 2009 floods killed 123 people in the city and two years later 10 more people were killed.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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