UAE, Saudi Arabia on alert after Cyclone Shaheen hits Oman

    05 Oct 2021

    Cyclone Shaheen slammed into Oman on October 3 with ferocious winds and heavy rain, flooding streets, prompting evacuations from coastal areas and suspending some flights to and from the capital Muscat.

    Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have said precautionary measures are being taken and Saudi Arabia has called for caution in several regions after 12 people were killed as tropical Cyclone Shaheen made landfall in neighboring Oman.

    Police in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday were patrolling near beaches and valleys where torrential rains were expected to ensure the residents’ safety.

    Cyclone Shaheen struck parts of Oman and Iran, Al Jazeera reports.

    Government and private-sector employees in al-Ain, on the border with Oman, were urged to work remotely on Monday and authorities called on residents to avoid leaving home except for emergencies, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said.

    “Authorities are working proactively around the clock to evaluate residential units in expected affected areas and transport families to safe locations until it is safe to return,” it said.

    Saudi Arabia’s civil defence authorities called for caution in several regions from Monday to Friday in expectation of high winds and possible flooding, the state news agency reported.

    Omani state television broadcast images of flooded roadways and valleys as the storm churned deeper into the sultanate, its outer edges reaching the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

    When its eye crossed land, the cyclone was carrying winds of between 120 and 150 km/h, Omani authorities said. It was throwing up waves of up to 10 metres.

    Video footage from Omani broadcasters showed vehicles submerged as people tried to make their way through muddy brown floodwater.

    Up to 500 cm of rain was expected in some areas, raising the risk of flash floods.

    The country’s National Committee for Emergency Management announced on Monday afternoon seven additional deaths from the storm, bringing the total death toll to 12.

    In Iran, state television said rescuers found the body of one of five fishermen who went missing off Pasabandar, a fishing village near the Islamic Republic’s border with Pakistan.

    Earlier on October 3, Iranian deputy parliament speaker Ali Nikzad said he feared as many as six fishermen had been killed because of the cyclone.

    India’s Meteorological Department, the top forecasters for cyclones that sweep across the Indian Ocean, said winds from Shaheen now gust up to 90 kph (55 mph) and would continue to weaken.

    It predicted the storm would weaken into a tropical depression in the coming hours. Shaheen made landfall with winds reaching up to 150 kph (93 mph).

    Oman’s national emergency committee said the power supply would be cut in al-Qurm, east of the capital, to avoid accidents. Aid agencies transferred more than 2,700 people to emergency shelters.

    Most of the oil-exporting country’s five million people live in and around Muscat. Authorities said roads in the capital would be open only to vehicles on emergency and humanitarian work until the storm dies down.

    A wooden ship sank at Sultan Qaboos Port and its crew was rescued, the National Committee for Emergency Management said on Twitter.

    Oman’s emergency services stand strong against cyclone Shaheen

    Several areas in Muscat and the surrounding regions required rescue personnel to wade through thigh-deep water and into flooded homes to rescue people, Times of Oman states.

    Emergency services and rescue teams in Oman have selflessly and tirelessly worked to keep people safe during cyclone Shaheen, often at cost of their own wellbeing.

    With Shaheen expected to make landfall on Sunday evening, the country’s National Committee for Emergency Management (NCEM), which is made up of the organisations that ensure public safety, swung into action well in advance.

    Shelters were prepared in a number of governorates, including North and South Al Batinah (where the cyclone’s impact was most felt), Muscat, Buraimi, Dhahirah, North and South Sharqiyah, and Musandam.

    In these areas, people were warned to stay indoors, as those who stepped outside would be facing wind speeds of more than 116 km/hr, torrential rain, flash flooding, and sea waves that could reach heights of up to 12 metres.

    Ahead of the cyclone’s arrival, personnel from the Civil Defence and Ambulance Authority (CDAA), with little regard for their own lives, drove loudspeaker vans in neighbourhoods that were most susceptible to flooding and water damage, asking people to move to shelter when required.

    When the flooding did come, and the waves crashed onto coastal roads, emergency services closed them off to the public for their own safety, once again putting themselves in the midst of danger so that the rest of us did not need to do so.

    Several areas in Muscat and the surrounding regions required rescue personnel to wade through thigh-deep water and into flooded homes to rescue people. In some instances, they unhesitatingly jumped into inflatable rafts and hauled people to safety.

    Emergency personnel were also required to enter homes to take people to shelters to ensure their safety. In one instance, at 7:15 on Sunday morning, they entered a flooded home in Muttrah to rescue seven people, just two hours after their colleagues finished responding to about 22 separate reports in Muscat that saw them help 55 people, all of whom were fortunately in good health.

    Another example of their bravery saw Royal Oman Police officers braving the high waves that came crashing down onto land, as they stood guard on the Muttrah Corniche road by the seashore when the weather meant it could no longer be used by motorists.

    People from many areas in the northern parts of Oman needed evacuation: Qurum’s commercial district, so popular and familiar with people in the country, was among those to be closed. A large portion of Sultan Qaboos Street was also closed to traffic.

    At least 600 people were taken to about 10 relief centres in Liwa and Shina in North Al Batinah, with many more families being escorted to shelters in Barka. In total, more than 2,700 individuals were accommodated in 45 out of some 136 relief centres in the country, according to the NCEM. 

    As the effects of Shaheen intensified, and relief supplies and personnel were needed across more and more parts of the impact zone, it was decided to halt traffic across most of the roads in the capital, with the exception of Muscat Expressway, as well as North and South Al Batinah, so that vehicles carrying man and materiel could quickly reach where they were required.

    “As the eye of the cyclone is approaching the region located between the governorates of North and South Batinah, due to the expected heavy rain and winds accompanying it, it is decided to stop traffic between the two governorates,” said the NCEM in its advisory. “Further, movement between the two locations is not allowed unless necessary.

    The NCEM asked people to abide by the necessary instructions, so that everyone – including teams out in the field – could stay safe.

    Sadly, however, Shaheen has not been without its casualties: a child was discovered dead in a flooded area in Amerat, while two workers lost their lives when the weather damaged a housing complex in Rusayl.

    Throughout the cyclone, while some health centres needed to be closed, others have stayed open despite the torrential rain and strong winds, providing care to those who require it.

    Shaheen: Tropical cyclone batters Oman and Iran, killing 13

    At least 13 people have been killed after tropical cyclone Shaheen battered parts of Oman and Iran.

    There was widespread flooding along Oman’s northern coast as the storm made landfall on Sunday, bringing heavy rain and winds of up to 150km/h (93 mph).

    Omani authorities reported the deaths of seven people in North al-Batinah province on Monday. Four others drowned or were killed in landslides on Sunday.

    In Iran, state media said the bodies of two fishermen had been found.

    Three other fishermen remain missing off the coast of the south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, near the border with Pakistan. Iran’s deputy parliamentary speaker initially said that six people were killed.

    Infrastructure, including electrical facilities and roads, was also damaged.

    Parts of the United Arab Emirates were placed on standby as the storm moved south-westwards over land on Monday and weakened. Residents of al-Ain were told to avoid leaving home except for emergencies.

    It is rare for storms of this power to hit Oman’s northern Arabian Sea coast.

    Authorities said 369mm (14.5 inches) of rain fell on al-Khaboura, north-west of Oman’s capital city, Muscat, while more than 200mm was recorded in Muscat itself.

    Shaheen’s high winds also caused waves of up to 10m (32ft) along the coast.

    Before the cyclone made landfall on Sunday, the National Committee for Emergency Management (NCEM) reported that a child who had been swept away by water in Muscat province had been found dead.

    Two Asian workers were also killed by a landslide in an industrial zone.

    On Monday, the NCEM announced that the body of a missing person had been found in Wadi al-Silil, in South al-Batinah province, and that six others had died in North al-Batinah.

    Oman’s state news agency reported the armed forces were continuing to rescue people who had been trapped by floodwater.

    It added that they were also restoring damaged roads to get aid into the areas that needed it.

    More than 5,000 people were moved into some 80 shelters set up in affected provinces.

    The National Multi Hazard Early Warning System had alerted residents that there was still a risk of thunderstorms as the bad weather moved inland. People were urged to avoid wadis – valleys and ravines found in the region – and other low-lying areas.

    As the cyclone approached, a child who had been swept away by water was found dead, the state news agency said, and another missing person was also found dead. Two Asian workers were killed when a hill collapsed on their housing area in an industrial zone, the state news agency reported.

    When its eye crossed land, the cyclone was carrying winds of between 120 and 150 km per hour (75-93 mph), Omani authorities said. It was throwing up waves of up to 10 metres (32 feet).

    Video footage from Omani broadcasters showed vehicles submerged as people tried to make their way through muddy brown floodwater.

    Part of the eyewall of the storm, where the most severe weather occurs, had entered Al Batinah South governorate, the state news agency said. The eye also entered between the states of Musanah and Suwaiq.

    Up to 500 cm (20 inches) of rain was expected in some areas, raising the risk of flash floods.

    Cyclones steadily lose their power over land and Shaheen was downgraded to a tropical storm after it cleared the ocean, the meteorology service said on Twitter.

    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. Authorities said roads in the capital would be open only to vehicles on emergency and humanitarian work until the storm dies down.

    A wooden ship sank at Sultan Qaboos Port and its crew was rescued, the National Committee for Emergency Management said on Twitter.

    In the United Arab Emirates, authorities said precautionary measures were being taken. Police were moving to ensure safety with patrols near beaches and valleys where torrential rains were expected.

    Government and private sector employees in the city of Al Ain on the border with Oman had been urged to work remotely on Monday and authorities called on residents to avoid leaving home except for emergencies, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said.

    “Authorities are working proactively around the clock to evaluate residential units in expected affected areas and transport families to safe locations until it is safe to return,” it said.

    Saudi Arabia’s civil defence authorities called for caution in several regions from Monday to Friday in expectation of high winds and possible flooding, the state news agency reported.

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