Heavy rains cause dam to flood Outer Damascus city, residents evacuated

AMMAN: Thousands of people in the opposition-held Outer Damascus city of Dumayr were displaced on Thursday after heavy rains caused a nearby dam to overflow and flood much of the city the night before.

The dam near Dumayr, an opposition-held city 40km northeast of Damascus that is under a ceasefire with the regime, failed to hold back rising waters on Wednesday evening after 24 hours of nonstop rain, local sources told Syria Direct.

Floodwaters spilled out of the dam and rushed through much of the northern half of Dumayr, forcing the evacuation of residents. Some three thousand residents of three existing shelters for internally displaced people—most of them from East Ghouta and south Damascus—were also evacuated.

 Floodwaters in Dumayr on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Dumayr Live.

“The water came rushing down on us in a muddy torrent last night while we were sleeping,” Hala, a displaced resident of one of the shelters, told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“The water came up to the windows of the center, swept away tents and damaged residences nearby,” she added.

The civilian local council in Dumayr as well as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) mobilized to rescue and evacuate residents trapped by the floods late Wednesday night. Local rebels with Jaish al-Islam and the Free Syrian Army’s Forces of Martyr Ahmad Abdo also participated in the operations.

Some of the three thousand people evacuated on Wednesday night are now living in temporary housing elsewhere in Dumayr, while others are staying with relatives and neighbors.

The rain that led to the overflow at the dam stopped on Thursday, but “water is still filling the streets,” Firas a-Lahham, the president of the Dumayr Local Council told Syria Direct on Thursday.

 A flooded street in Dumayr on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Dumayr Now.

The floodwaters, which reached the center of the city, “left huge damage,” he said. “We couldn’t control it.” Two districts of the city were affected, added a-Lahham.

The Dumayr dam, one kilometer north of the city, was built in the 1960s after multiple floods in earlier years devastated the area, damaging property and killing residents. The structure holds back water that flows down to relatively low-lying Dumayr from surrounding areas in the east Qalamoun Mountains.

Local Council president a-Lahham believes that the dam failed on Wednesday night due to years of neglect.

"The dam needs cleaning,” a-Lahham said. “It contains approximately 15,000 cubic meters of dirt and debris.” The Dumayr municipality was taking bids to clean the dam before the revolution broke out in 2011, after which the project was never completed.

“I am calling on all humanitarian organizations to undertake a project to clean the dam as soon as possible to avoid a disastrous situation,” said the council president.

“Any strong rain will cause a repeat of the same scenario.”

Alaa Nassar

Alaa was forced to flee Damascus with her family because of the pressure from the Syrian regime in 2013. She was a student of Arabic Language & Literature at the University of Damascus. She came to Syria Direct because she hopes to find a new direction in her life and to show the world what is happening in her country.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.