At least nine people were killed in Oman and Iran on Sunday as Tropical Cyclone Shaheen pummelled parts of their coastlines.
In Oman, two Asian workers were killed in a landslide that hit their housing area in an industrial zone as a result of the cyclone. A child who was swept away by storm surges was found dead, the state news agency said, and another person was missing.
“The eye of the tropical cyclone is currently entering between the states of Musanah and Suwaiq, accompanied by very heavy rain and strong winds. Wind speed on the wall of the cyclone is between 120-150km per hour [75-93 mph],” the state news agency reported.
Cyclone Shaheen prompted authorities to suspend flights to and from the capital Muscat and urge residents to evacuate coastal areas.
The cyclone is expected to “directly impact north Al-Batinah, Al Dhahira, Al Buraimi and Al Dakhliya”, a statement by the country’s weather agency said, adding Shaheen was downgraded to a tropical storm after it hit land in Oman.
‘Risk of high flooding’
According to Al Jazeera’s weather specialist Jeff Harrington, one of the biggest threats the cyclone poses is that in Oman’s desert climate the “ground is bone dry, so it can’t absorb the rain”.
“The second part is this is a mountainous area, so that means the rain falls high above and it gushes so the combination of both of these would lead to the risk of high flooding,” said Harrington.
— هيئة الطّيران المدني (@CAAOMN) October 3, 2021
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 220km (130 miles) off the coast of the province, he said.
‘Adverse climate conditions’
Back in Oman, the national emergency committee said the power supply would be cut in al-Qurm, east of the capital, to avoid accidents. More than 2,700 people were put up in emergency shelters.
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.
Oman also declared a two-day national holiday on Sunday and Monday, shuttering schools, “due to the adverse climate conditions”, the state news agency reported.
Traffic suspended in all streets in Muscat except Muscat Expressway till the end of the direct impacts of Cyclone Shaheen. There will be an access only for emergency and humanitarian cases. https://t.co/1GkKSJj272
— وكالة الأنباء العمانية (@OmanNewsAgency) October 3, 2021
Deadly storms are periodic occurrences in the Gulf. In July, northern Oman was hit by heavy rains, hail and strong winds.
In May 2018, Cyclone Mekunu hit southern Oman and the Yemeni island of Socotra, killing at least 11 people.
Oman reopened its doors to foreign tourists last month after a COVID-imposed closure.
The Gulf country – known for its rich heritage, scenic coastline, and stunning terrain – has already been hit hard by the fall in world crude prices since 2014 and the coronavirus pandemic.
The UAE was also bracing for the possible impact of Shaheen with emergency authorities urging people to avoid beaches and low-lying areas.
“We would like to assure everyone that the concerned authorities are on high alert and prepared to deal with any upcoming tropical situation,” its National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said.
All construction work has been halted in Al-Ain, bordering Oman, until Tuesday, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said, while children will study remotely on Monday and Tuesday.