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Unprecedented floods in the United Arab Emirates destroy greenhouses

The United Arab Emirates experienced a "historic climatic event", according to the National Meteorological Center, which stated, "The UAE experienced the heaviest rainfall in 75 years, and the "Khatm Al-Shakla" area in Al Ain received 254.8 mm of rain in less than 24 hours." That's the equivalent of two years' rainfall by the country's standards.

The storm paralyzed the country, submerging roads and homes and bringing Dubai airport to a standstill. Other neighboring countries experienced the same storm, in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman, where the human toll was heaviest.

The storm had serious repercussions on agricultural production, which relies heavily on greenhouses. As one grower explained, "Sunshields and greenhouse structures have been damaged. Almost all farms suffered varying degrees of damage, but many have suffered heavy losses." Images of the flood aftermath also show the loss of entire plantations.

The rains also submerged farm workers' housing, says a farm worker. He adds, "the winds and heavy rains blew away the roofs of the habitats. The irrigation room was also broken."

The United Arab Emirates depends on imports for their fresh produce needs, due to the adverse climate. Domestic production is largely dominated by dates, which account for 6% of world production. However, in recent years, greenhouse and hydroponic production has increased in the country. The most widely grown products are tomatoes, cabbages, eggplants, cauliflowers, and fruits such as berries."

In the regions affected by the floods, tomatoes grown in greenhouses were the biggest casualties, the Emirates hardest hit are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, in the north-west of the country, says a local grower.