Mekunu will be 'extremely severe' on landfall in Oman

Mekunu will be extremely severe on landfall in Oman

Salalah (oman) - The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Saturday near Salalah, Oman's third-largest city.


Published: Fri 25 May 2018, 10:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 May 2018, 12:20 AM

Cyclone Mekunu neared the Arabian Peninsula on Friday as its outer bands dumped heavy rain and bent palm trees in Oman, a sign of the approaching storm's power after earlier thrashing the Yemeni island of Socotra.
Already at least 40 people, including Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese, were reported missing on Socotra, where flash floods washed away thousands of animals and cut power lines on the isle in the Arabian Sea. Officials feared some may be dead.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Saturday near Salalah, Oman's third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people close to the sultanate's border with war-ravaged Yemen.
Conditions quickly deteriorated in Salalah after sunrise on Friday, with winds and rain beginning to pick up. Strong waves smashed into empty tourist beaches. Many holidaymakers fled the storm on Thursday night before Salalah International Airport closed. The Port of Salalah - a key gateway for the country - also closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain.
Streets quickly emptied across the city. Standing water covered roads and caused at least one car to hydroplane and flip over.
Later, a municipal worker on a massive loader used its bucket to tear into a road median to drain a flooded street, showing how desperate the situation could become.
Omani forecasters warned Salalah and the surrounding area would get at least 200 millimetres of rain, over twice the amount of rain this city typically gets in a year.
Authorities remained worried about flash flooding in the area's valleys and potential mudslides down its nearby cloud-shrouded mountains.
A sizable police presence fanned out across Salalah, the hometown of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Many officers rode in Royal Oman Police SUVs with chicken wire over the windows, likely because their other vehicles weren't tall enough to manoeuvre through the flood water.
"Of course, for the citizen there is going to be a sense of fear of the consequences that can happen," said Brig-Gen. Mohsin bin Ahmed Al Abri, the commander of Dhofar governorate's police. "We have been through a few similar cases and there were losses in properties and also in human life as well.
But one has to take precautions and work on that basis."
As torrential rains poured down, local authorities opened schools to shelter those whose homes are at risk. About 600 people, mostly labourers, huddled at the West Salalah School, some sleeping on mattresses on the floors of classrooms, where math and English lesson posters hung on the walls.
Shahid Kazmi, a worker from Pakistan's Kashmir region, said that police moved him and others to the school. He acknowledged being a bit scared of the storm but said: "Inshallah, we are safe here."
India's Meteorological Department said the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 160-170 kilometres per hour, with gusts of up to 190 kph.
"Salalah is expected to experience maximum wind and maximum rainfall and also the maximum storm surge," said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra of the department.
On Socotra, authorities relocated over 230 families to sturdier buildings and other areas, including those more inland and in the island's mountains, Yemeni security officials said.
Flash floods engulfed Socotra streets, cutting electricity and communication lines, they said. At least 40 people were missing, they added. Some humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arrived on the island just hours after the cyclone receded.
The officials said heavy rains pummeled Yemen's easternmost province of Al Mahra, along the nation's border with Oman. 

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