Cyclone Shaheen consequences: rare birds are visiting Oman. The country’s deaf community helps in the clean-up operation

    24 Oct 2021

    Cyclone Shaheen leveled properties and sent people in Oman running for shelter, but the destructive storm has left a pleasant surprise in its aftermath.

    Nature enthusiasts are delighting in the arrival of birds that do not usually visit the country, the National News states.

    Swathes of usually empty land are now filled with water, which has attracted different species to the parts of Oman most affected by the cyclone.

    Birdwatchers say white cranes, ospreys, geese, and flamingos are paddling in the waters left behind by the storm.


    A black heron and a warbler in the Batinah towns. Photo: Saleh Al Shaibany/The National


    “The empty arid lands are now rivers and lakes, thanks to the recent floods,” Shahid Maktoob, a nature enthusiast in Suwaiq, told The National. “We see an unusual landing of different species of birds in our area which we don’t normally see at any time on the water left behind by the storms.”

    Peter Basset, 74, a birdwatcher for 52 years in the UK’s Lake District and now retired in Oman, said migratory birds which usually fly past Oman from Iran to escape cold weather to India have stopped off in the Batinah region this time.

    “This time of the year, these birds fly away from Iran as the temperature there gets colder to warmer climates in India. But this time, because of the pools of water left behind by the storms, they made landfall in the Batinah areas,” Mr Basset told The National.


    A white crane on the water-filled lands in the Batinah towns of Oman after Cyclone Shaheen. Photo: Husam Al Jamali/The National


    Most damages was caused in Oman’s Batinah region, in the towns of Al Musannah, Suwaiq, Saham, Khabourah and Sohar, which were hit by 60-knot winds and 12-meter waves.

    “I have spotted white cranes, geese, and even flamingos on my usual evening walks in these flooded areas,” Hashim Al Saleh, a birdwatcher from Saham, told The National.

    “It is not usual we see these kinds of birds flying around at any time here in Batinah. The floods devastated our houses but brought beautiful birds as well.”


    A Myna bird in Oman fluffs up its feathers. Husam Al Jamali/The National


    Faisal Al Moosa, another birdwatcher, said he usually spots hawks, eagles and vultures in the deserts of Oman.

    “There are predator birds and they stay in the desert looking for foxes, rabbits and rats to eat. But this time, we have different foreign birds and that is really something special for birdwatchers like us,” he said.

    More than 5,000 people affected by the floods were moved to temporary accommodation, but most have now returned to their homes.

    The storms killed 12 people in Oman and two fishermen in Iran.

    Thousands of volunteers are helping to restore towns devastated by the storm. The government has said it will build 328 houses for families whose homes were destroyed by the floods.


    Cyclone Shaheen clean-up highlights employment inequality for Oman’s deaf community

    Members of Oman’s deaf community taking part in the vast clean-up operation after Cyclone Shaheen say they have more to offer despite being kept out of the job market by discrimination.


    Members of Oman’s deaf community help to clean up after Cyclone Shaheen in Khaburah. Photo: Azza Al Mabsali


    “We are here to prove that we are aware of the suffering of thousands of people and we can help too,” Azza Al Mabsali, an official sign language interpreter for Muscat’s Al Amal Club for the Deaf, told The National.

    Cyclone Shaheen killed 12 people in Oman as well as two fishermen in Iran. Widespread damage from the storm forced more than 5,000 people into temporary accommodation set up by the government.

    Most of the damage is in Al Batinah region, in the towns of Al Musannah, Suwaiq, Saham, Khaburah and Sohar, which were hit by winds of 110 kilometres per hour and 12-metre-high waves.

    Ms Mabsali, who is deaf and interprets by lip reading, said the clean-up operation was an opportunity to promote equal opportunities in workplaces.

    “If we can be here to get our hands and feet dirty and work as hard as anybody else, by working together with people, then we can be competent in workplaces if we get the opportunities,” she said.

    My colleagues with no hearing disabilities all work, but I am still looking for a company that can offer me a job

    Shamsa Al Shehi, 22

    Oman’s labor laws say that people with disabilities must make up a minimum of 2% of the workforce of public and private organizations, but the deaf community says finding jobs is often challenging.

    There are no statistics available in Oman to show how many people with disabilities are employed.

    Salim Al Shidhani, from Khaburah, one of the towns most affected by the floods, had his car destroyed in the rain and part of his kitchen wall collapsed.

    He paid tribute to those who turned out to help.

    “We have all kinds of people helping us, but the deaf community is standing out above the rest with their empathy, responsiveness and care as they work with us to clear this huge mess,” he said.

    “It amazes me to know that not many of them who turn up here have regular jobs. Why? I just don’t understand.”


    Deaf Community Photo Group in Khaburah cleanup. Photo: Azza Al-Mabsali

    Members of Oman’s deaf community during the cleanup in Khaburah. Photo: Azza Al-Mabsali


    Shabib Al Juma’a, one of the volunteers at Khaburah, also praised the deaf community.

    “They are amazing and work hard … If they give victims of this storm a chance to live in dignity again, the society needs to give deaf people a chance and employ them like everybody else,” Mr Al Juma’a said.

    “I am still looking for a job four years after I completed my secondary school education. My colleagues with no hearing disabilities all work but I am still looking for a company who can offer me a job,” hard of hearing job seeker Shamsa Al Shehi, 22, told The National.

    Al Amal Club for the Deaf is part of the Deaf Oman Sports Committee registered with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

    It has a social club that provides sign language services such as translations. It is fully equipped with sport facilities and arranged trips abroad for cultural exchanges with international deaf communities.

    “It is a challenge to get the private companies employing the deaf people in spite of our numerous pleas to them. We have a lot of them in the government organizations but it is the private sector that let them down,” a spokesman from the club said.



    The campaign kicks off to replace trees damaged during Cyclone Shaheen

    The Environment Authority (EA) of Oman on October 20 launched a campaign to replant and replace trees damaged during the recent tropical condition (Shaheen), Oman Observer states.

    Many volunteers joined hands with the municipalities of North Al Batinah and South Al Batinah, Oman Environment Society and Sidr Oman Society.

    Fahd Said al Nasri, who oversees the campaign, said that the campaign seeks to maintain the biodiversity of the Sultanate of Oman and develop plant cover, and combat desertification.


    You may read how Oman assesses Cyclone Shaheen damage here.

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