Rainstorm Drenches Middle East, Causing Chaos in Israel, Egypt, Iraq

by Charlene Gubash, Paul Goldman and Lawahez Jabari /  / Updated 
Image:
Iraqis push a car as others make their way through a flooded street in Baghdad on Thursday.Karim Kadim / AP

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The Middle East is hardly known for an abundance of water. But extreme weather has this week wreaked havoc across the region, flooding roads, knocking out essential services and even causing several deaths.

Cities from Egypt to Iraq have resembled something akin to Venice — only with submerged cars taking the place of floating gondolas.

Just three months after Baghdad was hit by a heatwave and 120-degree temperatures, it was pummeled by rain Wednesday into Thursday.

Many of its streets were transformed into canals of thigh-deep water, and the city's already shaky power network suffered even more outages than usual. Water and mud inundated areas where refugees who had fled ISIS in other parts of Iraq were living in makeshift tents.

The city got 2 inches of rain in 12 hours Wednesday — more than a third of its yearly average — according to Nick Wiltgen, senior digital meteorologist at The Weather Channel.

Image:
Iraqis push a car as others make their way through a flooded street in Baghdad on Thursday.Karim Kadim / AP

Israelis had also been enjoying a glorious summer, with temperatures reaching the high 90s. That all ended Wednesday when the storm knocked out power in the cities of Raanana and Kfar Saba when trees were blown onto power lines.

Conditions were no better in the Gaza Strip, where some people were still living in caravans after being displaced from their homes by last year's conflict.

Abid Alsalam Alanjar, a 46-year-old from the Gazan city of Beit Hanoun, said he was forced to use buckets to catch water and plug holes in the roof just to keep his six children dry.

Other Gazans have had to cut their own electricity in the ramshackle dwellings for fear they will be electrocuted in the heavy rain.

Mirvat Qdeh, a 41-year-old Gazan, has resorted to carrying her seven children into her caravan so they did not fall in the deep puddles that have been created around the structure.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Civil Defence said it has dealt with at least 270 rescues, as well as battling to re-open blocked roads, rescue trapped vehicles, drain flooded houses and evacuate civilians from the worst affected areas.

One Palestinian died Sunday when he was hit by lightning in the city of Tulkarem, Palestinian officials said.

Image: A motorcyclist rides through floodwater
A motorcyclist rides through floodwater in Alexandria, Egypt on Sunday.Heba Khamis / AP

The extreme weather had already battered the Egyptian city of Alexandria on Sunday, claiming five lives and prompting the resignation of the city's governor, Hani El-Mesery, for what many residents said was an inadequate response.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether public officials were culpable for the response — or lack thereof — that led the city's aging infrastructure being damaged.

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