Visitors walk through the Dubai Airshow on Sunday. The show closed early for the year on Thursday after a storm collapsed a roof and flooded the main exhibition hall. (MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP/Getty Images)
DUBAI — The Dubai Airshow has shut down after stormy weather hit the city on Thursday morning, causing a roof collapse and flooding at the venue’s main exhibition hall.
Organizers say the show, which began on Sunday and was supposed to run through Thursday, will not reopen and warned the public, exhibitors and contractors to steer clear of the venue
“I have seen many emergency services there ushering people out and debris from the collapse,” one witness said.
“The entrance was ... flooded. The collapse was in the center of the hall, and we were only allowed to pick up our stuff and leave,” one exhibitor said.
Witnesses have reported the roof also collapsed in one of the chalets located on the static display section.
According to emergency services, the site has been closed off to the public and “the situation will be reassessed by noon.”
Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Airports, Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP) and the organizers worked quickly to ensure the health and safety of the 1,065 exhibitors from 60 countries; as well as thousands of attendees, according to show organizer F&E Aerospace.
“The downpour did little to quash the high spirits of exhibitors and visitors to what has already been dubbed the benchmark event for global aviation,” F&E Aerospace CEO Sharief Fahmy said. “We decided to close the hall for the safety of all, especially after taking advice from Dubai Civil Defence, who will always put the safety of people first.”
The collapse is reminiscent of a similar incident several years ago at the Paris Air show, when the Airbus chalet collapsed under weight of heavy rain.
The United Arab Emirates’ National Center for Meteorology and Seismology issued warnings Wednesday, forecasting a 80 percent chance for rain in the city.
On Wednesday, the US Defense Department repositioned a dozen aircraft in advance of the adverse weather conditions.
Some US aircraft were moved to the Dubai World Central airport, about 30 miles south of downtown Dubai. Other aircraft were flown from the site.
US aircraft at the show included Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets, Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys, a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye, Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle, Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, Bell AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon.
On Wednesday, a British government official confirmed all exhibitors were advised of the potential adverse weather. A spokesman said all engineering equipment and aircraft would be secured in hangars, if available, or moved to safer locations at the airport.
A sandstorm canceled flying displays on the first day of the show.
The weather change has also closed all schools in Dubai, according to local media. A spokesperson from the schools commission confirmed that the Ministry of Education issued a notice that schools should remain closed due to bad weather.