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Cyclone Gonu: UAE sets up emergency task force

By our staff reporters / 6 June 2007

ABU DHABI, DUBAI & FUJAIRAH — Sounding an alert over cyclone Gonu which hovered over Oman yesterday, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, instructed Minister of Interior Lt-Gen. Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan to set up a task force for prompt emergency response to situations that could arise in the event of Gonu hitting the country’s shores.

The task force comprising top health and civil defence officials would closely monitor the cyclone’s movement and take anticipatory measures to meet crisis situations should they arise.

Shaikh Mohammed also instructed Shaikh Saif to make arrangements for field hospitals in coordination with the Health Ministry.He instructed the local authorities to prepare and dispatch necessary relief items to neighbouring Oman, which will be bearing the brunt of the cyclone. Lt.-Gen. Shaikh Saif was confident of the preparedness to face the situation arising out of Gonu.

According to a Wam report, under the directives of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Vice-President Shaikh Mohammed all preventive measures have been taken to avoid any difficult situations or mishaps.

According to Minister of Environment and Water Dr Mohammed Saeed Al Kindi, the tropical cyclone will not affect the UAE and there was no need for people to panic.

“While we urge the UAE Coast Guard personnel, seaport workers, the civil defence, fishermen and others to remain vigilant, there is no reason to panic as the UAE will not be affected,” Dr Al Kindi said.

Quoting reports from the UAE’s meteorological office, Dr Al Kindi says heavy clouds, driven by powerful winds, may cause rains on highlands in the eastern and northern parts of the UAE. “On the basis of the information provided by the central operations centre of the UAE Coast Guards, heavy rainfall and strong winds might prevail. Therefore, fishermen are advised to stay off the coast as a precautionary measure. But generally  speaking, there is no reason to panic,” he said.

Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police and Vice-President of the Disaster and Crisis Committee Brigadier Jamal Al Merri said the committee has drawn an emergency plan to deal with the natural phenomenon.

The Dubai Ambulance Centre (DAC) has dispatched 17 emergency vehicles to Hatta Road and eight vehicles to Fujairah Road.

Around 30 rescue workers are on standby for possible emergency operations, said Khalifa Bin Dari, head of the DAC.

Mahmoud Hamad from the Dubai Civil Defence said police patrols and rescue boats have been specifically stationed along the coast of Fujairah to monitor weather-related concerns and prevent the public from engaging in marine activities.

Sharjah Municipality, too, has dispatched 10 tankers to drain excess waters.

Minister of Health Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qutami said all hospitals in Fujairah and the Eastern Region were on high alert to deal with possible casualties.

Al Qutami told Khaleej Times that several meetings between the UAE Coast Guards and Civil Defence forces along the coast have taken place to put contingency plans in place. “All hospitals in the country are on standby and everything will be handled deftly in case of any emergency as all concerned medical staff is on call,” he added.

A spokesperson for the Dubai Meteorological Office said the storm will not directly affect most parts of the emirates, except for Fujairah, which is nearest to the Gulf of Oman. “We’re expecting Fujairah to experience strong winds and high tides, which can rise to as high as 10 feet by mid-morning today,” he said.

Local authorities have confirmed that the traffic leading to Fujairah had been diverted to alternative routes as Kalba Street remained closed. Sand bags were lined along Kalba to block excessive water inflow.

According to late evening reports, high tides swept through Kalba coasts, flooding the great garden at Al Faisail, the Heritage Museum at the old house of Shaikh Saeed Al Qasimi, as well as some residential districts. Bad weather conditions affected the normal activities along the East Coast. Construction activities at Al Qariya were temporarily halted as water submerged the construction equipment, while desalination facilities at Qadfa were flooded with rain waters. Strong waves smashed the breakwaters at Sharm and Bedia, resulting in flooding. Traffic from Khor Fakkan to Dibba came to a standstill. Met offices across the UAE have advised the public, residents and tourists not to engage in any water-related activities until the weather stabilises. Faisal Al Muhairi, head of weather forecasting section in Abu Dhabi said: “We are monitoring the cyclonic waves through the satellite and radars round the clock and we will officially issue alert notices on Wednesday after assessing the exact situation.”

According to the Met department, the cyclone is at the Arabian Sea and heading towards the northwest with the speed of 10-12km per hour. “This will bring sundry changes in the weather like rain with thunder showers in the eastern areas of the UAE. It will likely reach Fujairah by Wednesday afternoon with wind speed at approximately 50 knots,” Al Muhairi said.

“We expect Cyclone Gonu to hit the Abu Dhabi coast on Thursday afternoon and remain for three days. Though, the intensity of the cyclone will be grave on Friday along the entire UAE coastline. This will bring heavy rains, thunder showers, stormy winds and a heavy tides in the coastal areas of the region,” said Mohammed Ikram Quraishi, senior meteorologist at UAE Met Department.

He warned people to stay away from beaches and sea shores and cautioned fishermen from fishing. He also advised motorists to avoid unnecessary driving on the roads as the visibility may be low in the next couple of days. Major Saeed Al Hamer, Director of Public Relations and Morale Guidance,  Fujairah Police, cautioned the public against hiking in the mountains. “The public may dial telephone number 999 should they need any assistance,” he said.
 
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