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Cyclone Mekunu leaves 10 dead, 40 still missing

Among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle are Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese, and officials feared some may be dead

  • The cyclone weakened to Category 1 storm after making landfall on Saturday morning west of Dhofar, Oman.Image Credit: Gulf News
  • Road clearing operations following heavy rains and strong winds that triggered flash floods, cut off power andImage Credit: Twitter
  • Clearing operations started in southern Oman region following heavy rainstorms brought by Cyclone Mekunu.Image Credit: Gulf News
  • Thousands of residents near coastal areas in Dhofar and Al-Wusta had been moved to shelters as 170km/h (105mphImage Credit: EPA
  • High waves breaking along the shore in the southern city of Salalah as the country prepares for landfall of CyImage Credit: AFP
  • A few workers walk to their camp under the rain in Salalah, Oman.Image Credit: AP
  • This satellite image provided by NASA shows Cyclone Mekunu over the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian SeImage Credit: AP
Gulf News

[May 27, 2018]

8.55am

The Saudi General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (GEMP) issued a statement: "The impact of the tropical storm will affect many Saudi cities with heavy rains accompanied by strong winds. The winds will kick up blowing dust which may reduce visibility in the eastern parts of Najran - Al Kharkhir and southern parts of the eastern region Rub Al-Khali."

"Wind and dust will also hit areas of Eastern and northern of Hail, regions of Makkah and Madinah and Riyadh, and the Eastern province." 

Name of image A recovery truck of the Royal Oman Police pulls a vehicle caught in flash floods on Saturday following heavy rains poured by Cyclone Mekunu.  Twitter/Royal Oman Police

"There is a strong possibility of a thunderstorms in Jazan mountains, Asir, Baha, Makkah, Madinah mountains, which will stretch across to Tabuk, Al Jouf and parts of the northern border."

7.30am

Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 10 people, including a 12-year-old girl, dead in Oman and Yemen — with 40 others reported missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra.

Among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle are Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese citizens, and officials feared some may be dead.

Mekunu may also bring scattered showers in UAE, say weathermen.

Latest satellite images and weathermen' analyses show that it has weakened and is now moving north to northwest, with wind speed around the centre,  according to the Saudi General Authority of Meteorology and Environment Protection (GAMEP). 

Saudi daily Okaz reported heavy rains and strong winds in Al Kharkhir, in the southern part of the country late on Saturday till early morning on Sunday.

The agency's predictions show the tropical storm may affect parts of Saudi Arabia from today (Sunday) till next Tuesday.

Torrential rains, flash floods

Torrential rains are expected in southern parts of Saudi Arabia, as well as the eastern desert of the Empty Quarter and Najran. 

Blowing dust and flash floods may be triggered by the tropical depression, which brings winds of up to 75 km/h, according to agency, adding that everyone in the area must keep themselves updated with latest weather bulletin. The agency is updating daily weather reports and alerts on its official website and social media.
 

[May 26, 2018]

8.26pm

Cyclone Mekunu was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, a day after lashing the southern coast of Oman and killing at least two people, authorities said.

A satellite image shows Cyclone Mekunu in the Arabian Sea, in Oman on Saturday. A satellite image shows Cyclone Mekunu in the Arabian Sea, in Oman on Saturday. AP

The storm had intensified to a category two cyclone as it hit Oman's Dhofar and Al Wusta provinces on the Arabian Sea on Friday, battering the coast with torrential rains, strong winds and massive waves.

On Saturday, the cyclone had subsided to a tropical storm but was still pummelling the country with heavy rain and winds.

Oman's directorate general of meteorology said the cyclone had gone inland and was heading northwest into Saudi Arabia, but that heavy rains would likely continue into Sunday.

The Hafa and Dahariz areas were flooded by sea water on Saturday as authorities remained worried about flash floods in the area's valleys and potential mudslides in the mountains.

In the Wadi Darbat, the storm's rains supercharged its famous waterfall.

Al Saada in Salalah also bore the brunt of Cyclone Mekunu. Civil Defence authorities said they had evacuated 10,000 people to shelters.

Three wounded Asians were rescued and civil defence teams said they had saved hundreds of people including 260 foreign sailors trapped at sea.

 

2.30pm

At least four killed in Oman

Oman's National Committee for Civil Defence reported the deaths of four people - three Omanis and an expat - including a man who was swept away by floods with his car near Salalah, and a 12-year old girl who was smashed into a wall by a gust of wind.

Three wounded Asians were rescued and civil defence teams said they had saved hundreds of people including 260 foreign sailors trapped at sea.

Name of image A view of flash floods brought by Cyclone Mekunu that hit two provinces in southern Oman.  Screengrab

1.30pm

2 bodies recovered; four Indians rescued from 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.

12.35pm

Clearing operations started in southern Oman region following heavy rainstorms brought by Cyclone Mekunu that triggered flash floods, closed the Salalah International Airport, knocked down billboards and cut off power lines in parts of Dhofar and Al Wusta provinces.

Name of image Officers of the Royal Oman Police help clear a billboard knocked down by strong winds. Royal Oman Police / Twitter

Name of image Emergency workers prepare to tow a vehicle stalled following flash floods brought by Tropical Cyclone Mekunu in southern Oman.  Royal Oman Police / Twitter

11.45am

The cyclone has weakened to Category 1 storm after making landfall on Saturday morning (May 26, 2018) west of Dhofar, Oman, with an estimated wind speed around the centre of between 126km/h to 144 km/h, according to the UAE's National Center of Meteorology.

Surface wind speed brought by the tropical storm has weakened to 65 to 93 km/h, according to weathermen.

10.51am

Salalah, Oman: Heavy rainstorms caused flash flooding in Oman's southern Dhofar and Al Wusta Provinces and killed at least two people on Saturday, according to police. 

Name of image Estimated position of Mekunu by Sunday, May 27. NCM

Resident's videos shared on social media show the effects of the "extremely severe" cyclone hit southern regions with high winds and rain.

10.05am

Latest weather satellite observations show that tropical Cyclone Mekunu has weakened into a tropical storm with surface wind speed of 65 to 93 km/h around the centre.

The National Center of Meteorology in the UAE has downgraded the classification of the cyclone into a storm. 

9.55am

Large areas near Salalah were flooded on Saturday as Mekunu hit southern Oman with high winds and rain — with reports of death, including a 12-year-old girl, and leaving three other people injured, officials say.

The Royal Oman Police, reported that an besides the girl, an Omani citizen was also killed after his vehicle was washed away in a valley in Auqad.

Authorities urged residents to stay indoors and not to risk their lives. 

The girl died after wind swept her against a wall, police say. State TV showed large areas of flooding in two of the country's southern provinces, with dozens of vehicles submerged.

Video above shows a flooded road in Salalah, shared on social media by Bhimal Sarkhel.

The cyclone intensified in strength on Friday but has now been downgraded from Category 2 to Category 1 tropical storm, and officials said it would weaken further as it moves further up north on the Arabian Peninsula.

Name of image Mekunu as seen by the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center on Saturday, May 26, 2018. JTWC

Cyclone Mekunu's made landfall to the west of Salalah, Oman's second city, came a day after it lashed the Yemeni island of Socotra, where several were reportedly killed while at least 40 others were missing.

Cyclone Mekunu will not reach UAE: National Centre of Meteorology 
17 missing as cyclone pummels Yemen's Socotra island 
Flights disrupted due to cyclone Mekunu 

9.35am

The UAE's National Centre for Meteorology (NCM) has downgraded the classification of the tropical cyclone Mekunu to a tropical storm with surface wind speed 65 to 93 km/h around the center.

6.15am

Thundershowers with strong winds to continue over Dhofar and Al Wusta provinces as the cyclone makes landfall, lashing Oman's southern region, including Salalah, home to about 200,000 people, and conditions quickly deteriorated. As winds and rain picked up, strong waves smashed into empty tourist beaches.

Many holidaymakers fled the storm before Salalah International Airport closed on Thursday night.
 

1.30am

The UAE's National Center of Meteorology (NCM) has reported that tropical cyclone Mekunu has weakened from Category 2 to Category 1 after reaching west of Dhofar, Oman.

Thundery rainfall, associated with strong winds, with different intensity continue. The estimated wind speed around the centre of cyclone is between 126km/h to 144 km/h.


[May 25, 2018]

Humanitarian relief

11.35pm

With helicopters and humanitarian relief on board, two Indian navy ships have set sail from India to Oman.

The two ships, INS Deepak and INS Kochi, sailed from Mumbai yesterday. They have relief material on board. They are on stand-by to assist Salalah if required, according to the Indian embassy’s official Twitter handle.

The Royal Oman Police said a 12-year-old girl has died after the winds of Cyclone Mekunu threw her against the wall.

The death is the first confirmed in the powerful cyclone.

Police made the statement late Friday night as the cyclone neared Salalah, Oman's third-largest city in its south.

Police offered their condolences on Twitter.

Rain lashes Sur, which is 300 kilometres from Oman.

 

Rain affect Sur, which is 300km from Oman— Bimal Sarkhel


The National Committee for Civil Defence appeals to citizens and residents to evacuate the low-lying coastal areas, valleys and other places they may be vulnerable to water drift.

Due to the extreme weather conditions forecast, the Ministry of Health, @OmaniMOH, has announced the activation of a 24/7 call centre until the situation improves. The number of the call centre is 24441999.

The eye of cyclone is 75 kilometres away from the city of Salalah. Mekunu, which may be upgraded to Category 3, is expected to make landfall by 8pm, today. More than 800mm of rain is expected.

"Latest observations show that tropical Cyclone Mekunu has intensified to category 2," with high wind speeds, Oman's directorate general of meteorology said on Twitter.

The centre said the eye of the storm was expected to make landfall on the southern coast of the sultanate at 2000 local time (1600 GMT).

The city of Salalah, the second largest in Oman and capital of Dhofar province, was expected to bear the brunt of the onslaught.

Strong winds had already generated 12-metre-high waves.

After several hours of heavy rainfall in the province, the meteorology centre warned of flooding and winds of up to 170km/h.

Civil defence authorities said they had evacuated 10,000 people to shelters, mainly inside Salalah which has a population of more than 200,000.

Authorities have urged residents to stay indoors.

Unlikely to reach the UAE

Tropical Cyclone Mekunu is unlikely to reach the UAE, but the eastern and southern parts of the country might be affected by a moist air mass, according to the medium-range forecast issued by the National Centre of Meteorology, NCM, reports WAM.

The moist air mass will also lead to thunder showers and winds, causing blowing sand and dust, especially over the southern parts of the country.

The NCM has urged the public to follow its updates, reports and forecasts, and to ignore rumours circulated by unqualified individuals.

40 people missing in Socotra

Officials say preliminary figures show 40 people — among them Yemeni, Indian and Sudanese nationals - are missing after Cyclone Mekunu battered the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen.

The officials said Friday that over 230 families had been relocated to shelter in sturdier buildings and other areas, including those more inland and in the island's mountains.

They say floods swept Socotra streets, washed away thousands of animals and cut electricity and communication lines. Some humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arrived just hours after the cyclone receded.

The officials say heavy rains are now pummeling Yemen's easternmost province of Al Mahra, on the border with Oman. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

Oman extends closure of Salalah airport  

Oman will extend the closure of the country's second-largest airport, in Salalah, through Saturday due to the incoming cyclone, its civil aviation authority said on Friday.

The Public Authority for Civil Aviation initially closed the airport starting at midnight on Thursday for a 24-hour period.

Wind speed up to 19kmph

The Indian Meteorological Department, which tracks a cyclone heading toward the coast of Oman, says that country's city of Salalah is "expected to experience maximum wind and maximum rainfall and also the maximum storm surge."

[Watch] Salalah streets flooded by rain preceding the landfall of Cyclone Mekunu 

Video by Bimal Sarkhel


Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, an official at the department, says Cyclone Mekunu is now "located about 180 kilometers south south-east of Salalah," which is about 112 miles.

The official says the cyclone's wind speed is at present about 160-170 kilometers per hour (100-106 miles per hour), coasting to about 190 kph, and was expected to continue at this speed till landfall over Oman.

Cyclone Mekunu intensifies as it heads to Oman

MUSCAT: Oman said Friday that Cyclone Mekunu, which has wreaked havoc in the Yemeni island of Socotra, has intensified into category 2 as it approaches the southern part of the sultanate.

"Latest observations show that tropical cyclone Mekunu has intensified to category 2," with high wind speeds, Oman's Directorate General of Meteorology said on Twitter.

Oman’s early warning centre said that the eye of the cyclone was just 180 kilometres (112 miles) away from Salalah, the main city in Dhofar province.

It expected that Mekunu will make landfall in the early hours of the afternoon.

Several cities in Dhofar were lashed by heavy rain in the early hours of Friday as the centre of the cyclone approached the coast, it added in a statement carried by the official Oman news agency.

Oman on Thursday placed police and army on alert and closed schools until Monday in preparation for the cyclone.

State-run television in Oman said authorities evacuated hundreds of residents from a small island off the southern city of Salalah, capital of Dhofar province.

Oman's civil aviation authority has announced that Salalah airport would be closed for 24 hours from midnight (2000 GMT Thursday).

Streets empty as cyclone heads to Oman coast

Streets are largely empty in the Omani coastal city of Salalah ahead of Cyclone Mekunu's expected landfall there this weekend.

A man covers his head under the rain in Salalah, Oman, Friday.

Heavy rains and strong winds are already lashing the city. Standing water covered some roads on Friday, causing at least one car to hydroplane and flip over.

There was a sizable police presence on the road, many Royal Oman Police SUVs with chicken wire over the windows. The Port of Salalah has been closed, its cranes secured as rain pounded them.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall early on Saturday near Salalah, Oman's third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people.

Authorities open shelters

Authorities in Oman have opened up local schools in the city of Salalah to shelter those whose homes are at risk as Cyclone Mekunu heads to the shores of Oman.

About 600 people, mostly labourers, gathered on Friday at the city's West Salalah School as torrential rains poured down. Some slept on mattresses on the floors of classrooms, where math and English lesson posters hung on the walls.

Workers take a rest in a school turned into a shelter in Salalah, Oman, Friday.

Shahid Kazmi, a worker from Pakistan's Kashmir region, told The Associated Press that police had moved him and others to the school.

He acknowledged being a bit scared of the storm but said: "Inshallah, we are safe here."

Cyclone Mekunu to be ‘extremely severe’ 

SALALAH, Oman: Cyclone Mekunu will be “extremely severe” when it crashes into the Arabian Peninsula this weekend, meteorologists warned Friday, after earlier thrashing the Yemeni island of Socotra. At least 17 people are missing from Socotra, with one Yemeni official describing them as likely dead.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Saturday near Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people.

Strong waves

Conditions quickly deteriorated in Salalah after sunrise Friday, with winds and rain beginning to pick up. Strong waves smashed into empty tourist beaches. Many holidaymakers fled the storm Thursday night before Salalah International Airport closed.

India’s Meteorological Department said the storm in the Arabian Sea was packing maximum sustained winds of 160-170 kilometers per hour, with gusts of up to 180 kph.

On Socotra, Gov. Ramzy Mahrous said one ship sank and two others ran aground in the storm. The storm sent torrents of rain pouring through homes and streets, leaving residents soaking wet and trying to wade to safety.

He said of the 17 missing: “We consider them dead.”

World Heritage Site

The island is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Socotra has a unique ecosystem and is home to rare plants, snails and reptiles that can be found nowhere else on the planet. It is known for its flower-and-fruit bearing dragon blood tree, which resembles an umbrella and gets its name from the dark red sap it secretes.

Salalah in Oman already began sandbagging low-lying doors and warning residents not to go into valleys for fears of flashing flooding.

Oman sent rescue helicopters to remote villages in its Dhofar governorate to evacuate those who could be impacted by flooding or mudslides. It also evacuated the critically ill from Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah, flying them north to Muscat, the country’s capital.

The port of Salalah said it also had taken precautions and secured cranes ahead of the cyclone.

Seasonal rains are nothing unusual for southern Oman this time of year. While the rest of the Arabian Peninsula bakes in areas where temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius, those in the sleepy port city of Salalah enjoy rainy weather that sees fog and cool air wrap around its lush mountainsides. Temperatures drop down around 25 degrees Celsius during its annual monsoon festival.

Powerful cyclones, however, are rare. Over a roughly 100-year period ending in 1996, only 17 recorded cyclones struck Oman. In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through the sultanate and later even reached Iran, causing $4 billion in damage in Oman alone and killing over 70 people across the Mideast.

The last hurricane-strength storm to strike within 160 kilometers of Salalah came in May 1959, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s archives. However, that cyclone was categorized as a Category 1 hurricane, meaning it only had winds of up to 152 kph.

A cyclone is the same as a hurricane or a typhoon” their names only change because of their location. Hurricanes are spawned east of the international date line. Typhoons develop west of the line and are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean and Australia.

Mekunu, which means “mullet” in Dhivehi, the language spoken in the Maldives, is on track to potentially be the same strength as a Category 2 hurricane at landfall. It also comes just days after Cyclone Sagar struck Somalia.

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