School cricket team escape flood-hit Dubai

A group of teenagers in a South Island representative cricket team have managed to escape Dubai before their airline cancelled further check-ins.

The group said behaviour had turned "feral" and "aggressive" in Dubai, following major flooding in the area.

Emily Aubin, 14, of Dunedin, is one of them and spent more than 24 hours at Dubai International Airport, sleeping on the floor for long periods, while waiting to see if the team could get tickets to fly home.

They were supposed to leave Dubai on Tuesday, but the flooding was so severe, the airport closed and no flights were able to arrive or depart.

Emily’s father Chris Aubin, who is still in Dunedin, said the team were able to get on a flight back to New Zealand this morning (NZ time), just before their airline closed check-ins for another 12 hours. 

Members of the South Island Secondary Schools Girls’ Invitation Cricket Team sleep on the floor...
Members of the South Island Secondary Schools Girls’ Invitation Cricket Team sleep on the floor of Dubai International Airport while waiting for flights home, after the airport was closed by major flooding earlier this week. Much of the city — including the airport — was brought to a standstill by its biggest floods in 75 years. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Emily is a member of the South Island Secondary Schools Girls’ Invitation Cricket Team which has been competing at the inaugural Dubai Cup — a tournament comprising teams from around the world.

Mr Aubin, who is still in Dunedin, said the team had just finished playing their last match in nearby Abu Dhabi, when it started raining.

"They had to get from Abu Dhabi back to Dubai to get their flight home.

"The drive by bus to Dubai was only supposed to take an hour, but it took over five hours because there was flooding everywhere.

"There’s no provision over there for these sorts of events because it doesn’t rain there — they have no drainage systems.

"So water very quickly overwhelmed the area, including Dubai airport.

"It was the biggest flood they’ve had in 75 years — the water was so high in places that all the bags in the bus’ luggage compartment were totally soaked."

Mr Aubin said his partner Melissa Purnell was also over there to watch Emily play, but was travelling independently of the team.

The team had got out of the airport and were staying in a hotel. However, Ms Purnell was stuck in Dubai airport’s boarding area after her flight was cancelled.

"She’s in no-man’s land. It’s like purgatory.

"She’s been stuck in the airport for over two days now.

"She’s trying to get out, but it’s difficult because there’s no-one to talk to, so she can’t do anything.

"There’s no infrastructure there because the airport is closed. All their counters have just shut down.

"It’s very difficult to get food — nowhere to charge phones.

"Trying to connect to travel agents and rebook tickets is very difficult."

She had had no sleep for more than 24 hours and she was losing "functionality".

He said his partner had described scenes where thousands of people were continuing to arrive at the airport, but their flights were being cancelled.

"She said fights had been breaking out, there’s been yelling and screaming, people have been throwing stuff around — it’s getting pretty feral."

The whole place appeared to be falling apart because there were no contingencies for this kind of event.

"It’s absolute chaos there."

Ms Purnell had not yet been able to rebook any outbound flights. However, the cricket team had managed to book flights to New Zealand, which were due to depart today, but it all depended on whether flood waters had receded enough.

"There’s still a few question marks over that.

"At the moment, I can’t see it happening. We’ll have to wait and see what happens."