Storm in Saudi Arabia closes schools and cuts main road to Mecca

Torrential rains in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on Thursday led to flight delays, forced school closures and a road closure to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, state media reported.

Jeddah, a city of about four million people on the Red Sea, is often referred to as the “Gateway to Mecca” where millions of people make the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage each year.

Images posted to social media on Thursday show standing water disrupting traffic in Jeddah and partially flooding some vehicles.

King Abdulaziz International Airport said “due to weather conditions, some flights were delayed” and urged passengers to contact carriers for updated schedules.

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The official Saudi press agency said before dawn that schools in the city would be closed as rain was forecast to continue throughout the day.

Schools were also closed in the nearby towns of Rabig and Khulais “to ensure the safety of male and female students,” SPA said.

Final exams are being held in the kingdom, but schools across the country were already closed on Wednesday after King Salman declared a day off following Saudi Arabia’s shock defeat to Argentina at the World Cup.

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Winter showers and flooding hit Jeddah almost every year, where residents have long denounced poor infrastructure.

In 2009, floods claimed the lives of 123 people in the city and 10 others. two years later.