The Daily Q

Severe Weather Causes Major Damage to Qatar Foundation

Hazar Kilani and Menatalla Ibrahim

A torrential downfall caused major damage to a number of Qatar Foundation’s facilities on Saturday, Oct. 20, leading to flooding, broken ceilings and doors, disrupted Wi-Fi access and ruined classrooms across Education City.

Qatar experienced severe weather conditions as 80 percent of its typical annual rainfall fell in just 40 minutes, according to Steff Gaulter, an Al-Jazeera meteorologist. Due to the resulting damage, all universities and QF buildings closed their doors and canceled all activities for Sunday, Oct. 21 and Monday Oct. 22.

The decision to close QF was to ensure the safety of its students and employees while assessing the damage and cleaning up the aftermath. “In light of this impact on some of our facilities, combined with the hazards on the surrounding roads, we acted swiftly and responsibly and took the decision on Saturday, October 20, to temporarily close Education City,” according to Khalifa E. Al-Kubaisi, media relations manager at Qatar Foundation Press Office, in a statement to The Daily Q.

The damage at Northwestern University in Qatar included flooding of its entire basement floor and water reaching areas where it affected technological services and other facilities in the building, including Wi-Fi, air conditioning, running water, restrooms and underground parking. The Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies parking lot, where NU-Q students usually park their cars, was flooded as well.

QFIS parking lot on Monday, October 22. Photo by Menatalla Ibrahim.

The NU-Q underground parking on Monday, October 22. Photo by Menatalla Ibrahim.

“As soon as we were aware of the severity of the storm, we began the implementation of our emergency preparedness plan. At the same time, operations staff for the school were on campus assessing the situation and addressing problems,” said Pim Thukral, chief operations officer at Northwestern University in Qatar.

Water damage also caused parts of the ceiling to collapse at both Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, with water also leaking from several parts of the building.

Ramez Bodair, a second-year medical student at WCM-Q, said “our damage was least among all QF universities. At some parts of the building, the ceiling fell off. There was water leakage in other parts of the building as well.”

 

In addition, Qatar National Library had an extreme case of water damage where parts of the ceiling also collapsed and caused some flooding. Fortunately, the heritage library and other QNL collections are safe, according to their official Twitter account.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most universities and QF buildings re-opened on Tuesday, Oct. 23. However, as of publication, VCUarts Qatar remains closed due to extensive damage, including lack of air conditioning and functioning elevators; professors are teaching classes remotely, according to an email sent to VCUarts Qatar students on Tuesday by the university’s executive dean.

“We didn’t notice that our atrium was starting to fill up with water and we all started to panic,said Reem Selo, an interior design sophomore at VCUarts Qatar. The [sun] covers that were supposedly covering our cars crashed onto the floor—when I looked outside, it was like a whole ocean with our cars swimming.”

There was no Wi-Fi available at HBKU student housing until early Monday morning. “As a student, the non-availability of Wi-Fi in the student dorms during the rain had the biggest impact on my work since most of my work is saved online. Apart from that, all the other essentials such as food, water, and electricity was always available in the student dorms,” said Husnain Manzoor, a chemical engineering senior at TAMU-Q.

As for NU-Q, all physical spaces except for the building’s basement level and the Projection Theater are operational. Internet access and air conditioning are running again. Technology in the studios and the Black Box remains affected by water, according to an email sent by NU-Q’s Dean Everette E. Dennis to the university community.

Alessandra El-Chanti, a communication senior at NU-Q and president of the university’s Student Union, said she was saddened by the aftermath of the flooding and how it impacted the university’s facilities. “I had the edit suite booked the day it rained and I was looking forward to spending my time in there. Finding out that the rain also got into the edit suites really made me realize how much we take our facilities for granted and how lucky we are with everything offered at NU-Q,” she said.

On Monday morning, many NU-Q students and faculty responded to a call for volunteers to help sweep water out of the building and aid in clean-up efforts, in the hopes of opening the university on Tuesday.

Student and staff volunteers working to clean NU-Q on Monday Oct. 22. Photo provided by Inaara Gangji.

“There’s a huge amount of water that we’re trying to take out right now. This could cause major destruction for the IT department and even important equipment that we have, and so we have to save whatever left to save,” said Lina Draida, a journalism sophomore at NU-Q, who took part in clean-up efforts on Monday.

Cleaning staff working on cleaning the NU-Q basement on Monday, Oct. 22. Photo by Menatalla Ibrahim.

Many students expressed concerned about deadlines for assignments, especially those who did not have internet access at the dorms.

“The weather was extremely dangerous and terrifying; I didn’t want to focus on anything other than my safety. I was out the entire day yesterday stuck in a stranger’s house because of the flooding and the police weren’t there to help. I made it back home [late] because of traffic, and I didn’t want to stress about homework after that,” said Nouf Al-Subaie, a communication senior at NU-Q.

In an email to NU-Q faculty, Hariclea Zengos, senior associate dean of NU-Q, asked faculty to consider extensions for assignments due to the lack of Wi-Fi. “Please be aware that students living in the dorms did not have Internet access until today [Monday, Oct. 22].  As such, they may need more time to complete assignments due this week,” she wrote.

Other students expressed shock and skepticism about the extent of the damage caused as Qatar Foundation has spent significant amounts of money on Education City’s university buildings, with some labeled as “state-of-the-art.” Some individuals also questioned the integrity of the infrastructure of the buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Martin, an assistant professor at Northwestern University in Qatar, said that “Qatar residents are likely going to see more extreme weather like this, and soon, due to man-invoked climate change. So, institutions need to be prepared not only for the weather that hit Qatar Saturday but worse.”

It remains unclear how QF plans to prepare its buildings in the case of future extreme weather conditions. The Daily Q has reached out to QF regarding infrastructure plans and will update this article accordingly.

 

Correction: Oct. 24, 2018

An earlier version of this story stated Hariclea Zengos’ title as Director of the Liberal Arts Program. However, Zengos sent the email to faculty in her capacity as Senior Associate Dean. It has since been updated with the correct title.

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