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 Wednesday 03 October 2007
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OMAN: Authorities on high alert for approaching cyclone

Photo: GDACS
Tropical cyclone Gonu is likely to hit Oman, Iran and Pakistan in the coming days
DUBAI, 5 June 2007 (IRIN) - Oman’s police and army are on high alert in anticipation of a powerful tropical cyclone that is expected to hit the Gulf country’s shores late on Tuesday or on Wednesday. At least 7,000 people living in coastal areas have already been evacuated.

"There is no definite number of people who have left the areas expected to be hit by the cyclone as the people moved by themselves as a precautionary measure. Many are staying in friends’ or relatives’ houses - that's why we don't have an exact number,” Colonel Abdallah al-Harathi, head of the Omani police’s public relations department, told IRIN by phone.

“We hope they will be able to go back to their homes in 72 hours, after the cyclone passes. We are highly prepared and ready to provide them with means of transport, food, blankets and medical services in case they need them. Until now, there are no injuries and the situation is under control."

Cyclone Gonu originated in the Gulf Sea and is traveling in a westerly north-westerly direction at 7-10kmph with accompanying winds of up to 200kmph and waves of up to 8m high, according to meteorologists. It will be the first time most citizens of Oman will have experienced such strong winds.

“Imagine that you live directly on the Gulf, but in a place where it hardly ever rains, and where a hurricane has never hit, for at least a generation - for more than 60 years,” Jeff Masters, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Underground, wrote.

Evacuation neccessary

“Your community and many like yours are situated not only directly on the water, but near or in large dry riverbeds on the coastal plain, which is a narrow strip of sandy shoreline that is the drop-off for the 3,000-foot mountain range behind it… This is the eastern coast of Oman, where communities line the shoreline which is shortly going to be experiencing a major hurricane. We can only hope that the danger is understood and that all of these communities have evacuated to higher ground and a safer location,” Masters added.

Lieutenant-General Malik bin Suleiman al-Ma’amari, inspector-general of Oman’s police and customs and head of the National Committee for Civil Defence, told reporters that the cyclone would approach Oman from the east and hit coastal areas from Ras Madrakah to Ras al-Hadd. It would then head north in the direction of the Sharqiyah region and part of al-Hajar al-Sharqi and al-Hajar al-Gharbi.
''We can only hope that the danger is understood and that all of these communities have evacuated to higher ground and a safer location.''

“We encourage people to move from the hazardous areas, particularly Masirah and al-Halaniyat islands, to more secure areas,” al-Ma’amari said, adding that the police and civil defence have deployed specialist units and vehicles in the areas likely to be affected by the cyclone. He also said the police, in cooperation with government departments, will provide shelter and food for people affected by the cyclone.

United Nations agencies are also on standby to assist. "Oman is always highly prepared to face emergency situations. It will be clear what the requirements are once the cyclone calms down," Hassan Shawareb, of UNICEF Oman, said.

Meteorologists are still unsure of the exact impact Cyclone Gonu will have on Oman as its direction could become more northerly, in which case the Sultanate would not feel the full force of the storm. Either way, it is due to move on and hit Iran’s coast after Oman and then is likely to hit Pakistan, where it could cause significant flooding of the coast near Karachi, the country’s commercial capital and largest city.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Natural Disasters


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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