Oman Takes Emergency Measures as Cyclone Mekunu Strikes Yemen’s Socotra

Oman Takes Emergency Measures as Cyclone Mekunu Strikes Yemen’s Socotra

Friday, 25 May, 2018 - 07:15
People wade through a flooded road in Hadibu on the Yemeni island of Socotra. (AP)
Dammam - Mirza Al-Khuwaildi
Oman announced on Thursday that it was enforcing an emergency plan as it braces for Cyclone Mekunu to make landfall on Friday, with national weather experts expecting it to intensify to a category two cyclone from category one, after it hit Socotra on Wednesday night.

The police and army have been put on alert to deal with the strong 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 Salalah airport would be closed for 24 hours from midnight Thursday, while the education ministry said schools in Dhofar would be shut until after Monday.

Authorities inspected dams in Dhofar, to ensure their capacity to withstand the expected heavy rains.

Provincial health authorities decided to evacuate the main public hospital and move patients to other hospitals to ensure the facility can cope with cyclone victims.

A statement by Oman's Meteorological Directorate on Thursday said weather maps show the cyclone intensifying to category two before making land.

It expects the center of the cyclone to hit the coasts of Dhofar and Central provinces, some 1,000 kilometers (just over 620 miles) south of the capital Muscat. It predicted winds would reach nearly 150 kilometers per hour in some areas.

In neighboring Yemen, the legitimate government declared the Socotra archipelago a “disaster province”.

Seventeen people were missing and hundreds of others evacuated from their homes Thursday.

The missing people had been in two boats that sunk and three vehicles swept away by floods, said Ramzy Mahrous, governor of Socotra, an island paradise 350 kilometers (220 miles) off Yemen in the Arabian Sea.

Mahrous said Socotra could not handle relief efforts on its own, with the number of missing expected to rise.

Authorities called on humanitarian organizations and the Saudi-led Arab coalition to help, according to Yemen's state-run news agency Saba.

"Socotra is a disaster province due to human and material damage at all levels and requires urgent aid," said Rajeh Badi, a spokesman for Yemen's internationally recognized government.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi called Socotra's governor and promised to aid rescue efforts.

Yemeni relief officials called on international aid agencies to "send medical teams urgently" to Socotra and other areas in the south of the country expected to be hit by the cyclone.

In Saudi Arabia, the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection predicted that starting Saturday some parts of the Kingdom will be affected by the cyclone after it passes through Oman and Yemen. The conditions are set to ease by Tuesday.

In November 2015, Socotra and south Yemen were hit by cyclone Chapala which injured more than 200 people.

In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through Oman, killing at least 49 people and causing damage estimated at $3.9 billion (3.3 billion euros).

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