Cyclone Mekunu lashed southern Oman with high winds and rain, killing at least one person and wounding three a day after wreaking havoc on the Yemeni island of Socotra. Oman’s directorate general of meteorology said the centre of the cyclone struck west of Salalah, the second largest city in the Gulf state, late Friday accompanied with strong winds, torrential rains and high tides. “Latest observations show that the centre of the cyclone hit the coast of Dhofar province,” west of Salalah, the main city in the province, the directorate said in its latest warning.
State-run Oman Television showed footage of large areas covered with floods in Dhofar and the nearby Al-Wusta provinces. Dozens of vehicles were seen submerged in several areas. Head of the directorate Abdullah al-Khoduri told Oman TV that the cyclone, which intensified to category 2 early Friday, was downgraded to category 1 after losing some of its strength. He said it would weaken further Saturday morning into a tropical storm and gradually diminish into a tropical depression before hitting the southern parts of Saudi Arabia.
The cyclone also hit areas in southeast Yemen neighbouring Oman. Thousands of residents near the coastal areas in the two provinces have been evacuated to safer shelters as winds up to of 170 kilometres (105 miles) per hour and torrential rainfall lashed the coastal areas, officials said. Civil defence authorities said they had set up 65 shelter centres in the two affected provinces. Police said a 12-year old girl died when a gust of wind sent her smashing into a wall. Three Asians who were wounded by the cyclone were rescued. Police also said that civil defence teams had rescued dozens of people who were trapped because of floods.
Civil defence said it had evacuated 10,000 people from schools and government buildings, mainly in the city of Salalah which has a population of 200,000. Authorities have urged other residents to stay indoors. Strong winds had already generated 12-metre-high (40-foot-high) waves offshore of the sultanate. The civil aviation authority closed Salalah airport until midnight on Saturday.
On Thursday, the storm pummelled the island of Socotra in war-torn Yemen, leaving at least 19 people missing, causing severe flooding and material damage. Yemen’s fisheries minister Fahad Kafin said that of those missing, 14 were Indian sailors who were at the island’s port when the cyclone struck. He told AFP that authorities have recovered the bodies of the five Yemeni nationals and two Indians and were still searching for the remaining 12.
Later, Socotro governor Ramzy Mahrous told Saba news agency that four sailors who were missing were found alive on Friday. Kafin said that 1,000 families were evacuated to safety after there homes were affected by flooding. Saudi teams on the island managed to open the main road between the island’s capital and its airport, he said.
The government declared the island in the northwest Indian Ocean, part of a UNESCO-protected archipelago for its rich biodiversity, a “disaster” zone. Saudi troops were deployed to Socotra earlier this month following tensions over an Emirati military presence on the island. The Yemeni high relief agency met with international humanitarian organisations in Aden late Thursday to discuss the situation, the country’s Saba news agency reported.
They decided to set up 11 relief centres in Socotra to provide shelter for evacuees. In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through Oman, killing at least 49 people and causing damage estimated at USD 3.9 billion.