Powerful cyclone strikes Oman, Yemen; 6 dead, 30 missing

Powerful cyclone strikes Oman, Yemen; 6 dead, 30 missing
General view after Cyclone Mekunu in Salalah, Oman May 26, 2018.

Salalah - Cyclone Mekunu caused flash flooding that tore away whole roadways and submerged others in Salalah.



By AP/AFP

Published: Sun 27 May 2018, 6:27 AM

Last updated: Sun 27 May 2018, 7:49 PM

A cyclone more powerful than any previously recorded in southern Oman slammed into the Gulf country and neighboring Yemen on Saturday, deluging a major city with nearly three years' worth of rainfall in single day. The storm killed at least six people while more than 30 remain missing, officials said.

Cyclone Mekunu caused flash flooding that tore away whole roadways and submerged others in Salalah stranding drivers. Strong winds knocked over street lights and tore away roofing.

Rushing waters from the rain and storm surges flooded typically dry creek beds. The holiday destination's now-empty tourist beaches were littered with debris and foam from the churning Arabian Sea.

Three people, including a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman, and another two bodies were recovered from the Yemeni island of Socotra. More than 30 people were still missing in Socotra, including Yemeni, Indian and Sudanese nationals.

Yemeni officials also reported damage in the country's far east, along the border with Oman. Rageh Bakrit, the governor of al-Mahra province, said on his official Twitter account late Friday that strong winds had blown down houses and taken out communication lines and water services. He said there were no fatalities in the province.

India's Meteorological Department said the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 170-180 kilometers (105-111 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). It called the cyclone "extremely severe."

The Latest on the cyclone battering Oman and Yemen (all times local):
12:00pm
Cyclone shuts Sembcorp Salalah water production plant
Sembcorp Salalah Water and Power Co, which operates an electricity generation and seawater desalination plant in Oman, said its water production plant had been temporarily shut down because of rough seas as a result of a tropical storm.
The company said its preliminary assessment is that the impact is not expected to be material, however the "total impact of the cyclone on plant operations cannot yet be precisely assessed at this point in time."
Sembcorp Salalah is 40 per cent owned by a subsidiary of Sembcorp Industries and 13 percent owned by Oman Investment Corp, according to its website.
Other Muscat-listed companies such as Dhofar Poultry Co have also announced some losses from the cyclone.
8am
Mekunu weakens as it nears Saudi
The meteorology department said the latest weather charts and satellite imageries indicate that Mekunu's intensity has dropped to "a deep depression". President of the General Authority for Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME) Dr. Khalil bin Musleh Al Thaqafi confirmed the end of the critical period of the impact of the tropical storm Mekunu on Saudi territories.

Satellite images, analysis of weather maps and the results of numerical models of the tropical cyclone Mekunu, in the Arabian Sea, had earlier shown that the storm weakened to a second class cyclone and was expected to move north to northwest, with the storm eye away from Saudi Arabia, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Sunday, 6am
Oman say a fourth person has been killed

Authorities in Oman say a fourth person has been killed by Cyclone Mekunu, raising the storm's overall death toll to six.

Oman's National Committee for Civil Defense made the announcement early Sunday, without details on how the person died.

Earlier, Royal Oman Police identified three fatalities: a 12-year-old girl killed by a door flung open by the wind, an Asian labourer killed in a flooded valley and an Omani who died when his 4x4 was swept away by rains.


Yemeni officials have recovered two bodies from the hard-hit island of Socotra, while some 30 others remain missing there.

3:30 pm
Salalah Airport will reopen on Sunday

Oman's Salalah International Airport will reopen on Sunday after weathering Cyclone Mekunu.

The Public Authority for Civil Aviation in the Gulf country announced the reopening in a statement Saturday.

Authorities shut down the airport in Oman's third-largest city on Thursday ahead of Mekunu's arrival to the Arabian Peninsula. The storm caused at least five deaths in Oman and neighboring Yemen.

Oman's longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said declared a three-day holiday for government offices to allow workers to recover from the storm. Critical services like police and civil defense workers will keep working.

2:40pm
Four Indians rescued from a ship

Yemeni security officials say rescuers have recovered two bodies from the island of Socotra after it was battered by Cyclone Mekunu, with more than 30 people still missing.

The officials said Saturday that four Indians were rescued from a ship that ran aground during the storm, and that another two Yemenis were found alive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

SABA news agency quoted Socotra Gov. Ramzy Mahrous as confirming that four sailors were found alive.

Yemeni officials said earlier that around 40 people, including Yemeni, Indian and Sudanese nationals, were missing after the storm barreled through. Police in neighboring Oman say the storm killed three people there.
1:45 pm
At least 40 people missing in Yemen
A Yemeni official says strong winds blew down houses and took out communication lines and water services as Cyclone Mekunu reached the country's easternmost province on the border with Oman.

Rageh Bakrit, the governor of Al Mahra province, said on his official Twitter account late Friday that Hawf district was worst affected. He said emergency aid, including drinking water and fuel, was sent to province. He did not say whether there were any casualties.

Bakrit later said that communication lines in some areas, including Hawf, have been partially fixed, promising full restoration in the coming hours.

Cyclone Mekunu also hit the Yemeni island of Socotra, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, leaving at least 40 people missing. The storm caused at least three deaths in Oman.

12:15pm

Police in Oman say Cyclone Mekunu has killed at least three people in the Gulf sultanate.

Capt. Tarek al-Shanfari, of the Royal Oman Police's public relations department, said Saturday the first death was a 12-year-old girl who was hit in the head by a door flung open by the wind.

He says an Asian laborer died in a flooded valley and an Omani national in a 4x4 died when his vehicle was swept away. Three others in the vehicle were rescued.
Five people dead, 40 missing in Socotra

Cyclone Mekunu has blown into the Arabian Peninsula, drenching arid Oman and Yemen with rain and cutting off power lines.

Portions of Salalah lost electricity early Saturday as the cyclone made landfall. Streets already were flooded and in some places impassable.

While there is no rain at dawn Saturday, strong winds are still lashing the region.

Police late Friday night said at least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in the storm. At least 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra, which earlier took the storm's brunt.

India's Meteorological Department says the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 170-180 kilometers (105-111 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). It called the cyclone "extremely severe."

Portions of Salalah, home to some 200,000 people, lost power as the cyclone made landfall.

Branches and leaves littered the streets. Several underpasses became standing lakes. Some cars were left abandoned on the road. Electrical workers began trying to repair lines in the city while police and soldiers in SUVs patrolled the streets. On the outskirts of the city, near the Salalah International Airport, what once was a dry creek bed had become a raging river.

The airport, closed since Thursday, will reopen early Sunday, Oman's Public Authority for Civil Aviation said. The Port of Salalah remained closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain and winds.

Omani forecasters said Salalah and the surrounding area would get at least 200 millimetres (7.87 inches) of rain, over twice the city's annual downfall. It actually received 278.2 mm, nearly three times its annual rainfall.

Authorities remained worried about flash flooding in the area's valleys and potential mudslides down its nearby cloud-shrouded mountains. In nearby Wadi Darbat, the storm's rains supercharged its famous waterfall.

Police and others continued their rescue efforts even as the winds and rains calmed. Capt. Tarek Al Shanfari of the Royal Oman Police's public relations department said there had been at least three fatalities in the storm, including the death of a 12-year-old girl who was hit in the head by a door flung open by the wind.

An Asian laborer died in a flooded valley and an Omani national in a 4x4 died when his vehicle was swept away, al-Shanfari said. Oman's National Committee for Civil Defense announced a fourth death early Sunday, without offering details.

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's streets, cutting electricity and communication lines. Some humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arrived on the island just hours after the cyclone receded.

Yemeni security officials said rescuers recovered two bodies on Socotra, while more than 30 people remain missing. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

The island, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, has been the focus of a dispute between the UAE and Yemen's internationally recognized government, which are ostensibly allied against Shiite rebels known as Houthis.

Socotra has a unique ecosystem and is home to plants, snails and reptiles that can be found nowhere else.

In Oman, Mohammed Omer Baomer warned his neighbors about a torn-away chunk of road just down the street from his home after earlier getting his SUV stuck over it.

"It was a scary feeling, as if it was the end of world," he said of the cyclone. "You can't even go outside. You try to watch from the window and you can't."

Yet even as Mekunu barreled overhead, the eye of the storm provided a moment's respite early Saturday morning. At one luxury hotel in Salalah, which already had evacuated its guests, workers sat down early for "suhoor," a meal Muslims eat before sunrise during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.


More news from Weather