Muscat/Dubai: The Tropical Cyclone Shaheen battered Oman on Sunday, killing at least three people, including a child, as authorities urged residents to evacuate coastal areas and delayed flights to and from the capital, Muscat.
The cyclone made landfall on Sunday night just off from Muscat, Oman's capital, with winds reaching up to 150kph (93 mph), according to the state-run Oman News Agency. The cyclone quickly lost strength and forecasters downgraded it to a tropical storm.
A child who had been swept away by water was found dead in Wilayat of Al Amerat, the state news agency said earlier, and another person was missing. Meanwhile, rescue teams pulled the bodies of two Asian workers from their home hit by a landslide in the Rusayl industrial area of Muscat province, Oman’s National Committee for Emergency Management said.
Video footage from local broadcasters showed vehicles submerged as people tried to make their way through muddy brown floodwater.
Hours earlier, the centre of the cyclone made a landfall between the wilayats of Musannah and Suwaiq, accompanied by strong winds and thunder showers.
Across the sea in Iran, six people were killed in Chabahar port in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, parliament’s news agency ICANA reported, citing deputy speaker Ali Nikzad.
“Infrastructure, including electrical facilities and roads, was damaged,” provincial governor Hossein Modarres-Khiabani told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
The eye of the storm was 220 kilometres (130 miles) off the coast of the province, he said.
The cyclone will continue to cause heavy rainfall in North and South Al Batinah with rainfall forecast in the 200mm to 500mm range. The governorates of Al Dhahirah, Al Buraimi and Al Dakhiliyah will be hit by the cyclone after midnight with rainfall ranging between 100mm and 300mm, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said earlier in its weather update.
Oman's wadis (streams/ravines) were overflowing and streets in several governorates, including Muscat, were flooded as Shaheen dumped rain ahead of its landfall. Gusty winds exceeding 45 knots were blowing over Muscat.
Oman earlier delayed and rescheduled flights to and from the airport of its capital city Muscat to Sunday evening or until further notice, the sultanate’s airports authority said on its official Twitter account. Flight tracker reported several flights skirting the Sea of Oman flight path to avoid the stormy winds. Oman Air has rescheduled flights to and from Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Manila, Colombo, Dhaka, Salalah, Dar Es Salam and Duqum.
* The most deadly ones were in 1890, and the category 5 Cyclone Gonu, which struck the sultanate in 2007, and Cyclone Phet in 2010, which caused great material losses.
* The losses due to the two cyclones that struck Oman are estimated at $4 billion.
The national capital is at a standstill, with traffic stopped across the city. The Royal Oman Police is running patrols across the affected areas. The stormy weather has also resulted in power outages in some places in the sultanate. The national emergency committee said the power supply would be cut in Al Qurm, east of the capital, to avoid accidents.
Sea-front residences evacuated
Highways and interior lanes in residential and industrial areas have been flooded as incessant rains continue. Residents of North Al Ghubra, a region known for sea-front residences, have been evacuated as of October 2 night. The residents of premium water-front property Almouj have also been evacuated. Many schools and other public utility buildings have been converted into shelters. More than 2,700 people were put up in the emergency shelters.
Muttrah Souq, the water-front, facing the corniche in Muscat has been closed. The barricade separating the land from the waterfront in certain places across the cornich had fallen off due to the force of the water. Police and security personnel were in patrol through the night and even as this goes to print, staving off traffic from the areas. The residents staying in low-lying areas in this locality have been moved to shelters.
A statement from the National Committee for Emergency Management (NCEM) earlier in the day said: “Movement is cut off on the streets of Muscat Governorate, except for the Muscat Expressway, so as to allow for the movement of emergency and humanitarian assistance until cyclone Shaheen passes, and its effects are no more seen in the Governorate of Muscat.”
Most of the oil-exporting country’s five million people live in and around Muscat. Roads in the capital would be open only to vehicles on emergency and humanitarian journeys until the storm dies down, authorities said.
Traffic was also suspended in the Governorates of North and South Al Batina and there will be access only for emergency and humanitarian cases as the eye of the cyclone approaches the land with gusty winds. Heavy rains are expected to reach 500mm.
“Wind speeds accompanying the cyclone are accelerating to 135 km/hr,” the NCEM said, and called for all to stay home and take precautionary measures as more heavy rain is expected during the coming hours.
The Omani government declared a public holiday on Sunday and Monday “due to the adverse climate conditions,” State-run Oman News Agency said in a statement, and the airports authority said flights would be rescheduled. -- With inputs from agencies