Saturday 23 June 2018

One dead, dozens missing as powerful cyclone lashes Oman

Areas of Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city, lost electricity as the cyclone made landfall.

Cyclone Mekunu in Salalah, Oman (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Cyclone Mekunu in Salalah, Oman (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

By Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

Cyclone Mekunu has hit the Arabian Peninsula, leaving at least one person dead and 40 missing, officials in Oman and Yemen have said.

Areas of Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city, lost electricity as the cyclone made landfall.

At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman – and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra, which earlier took the storm’s brunt, police said.

Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead.

India’s Meteorological Department said the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 170-180 kilometres (105-111 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph).

It called the cyclone “extremely severe”.

Across Salalah, 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 4x4s 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.

Many holidaymakers fled the storm on Thursday night before the airport closed. The Port of Salalah — a key gateway for the country — also closed, its cranes secured against the pounding wind and rain.

Omani forecasters warned Salalah and the surrounding area would get at least 200 millimetres (7.87 inches) of rain, over twice the city’s annual downfall.

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 the city, the home town of Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

As torrential rains poured down on Friday, 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.

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. Some humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arrived on the island just hours after the cyclone receded.

Socotra Gov Ramzy Mahrous said one ship sank and two others ran aground in the storm, initially saying authorities believed 17 people were missing and presumed dead.

Yemen’s self-exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued a statement ordering troops under his command on the island to help citizens, deliver supplies and reopen roads.

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

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

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News