Muscat: People in Oman continue to have strong memories of Cyclone Gonu, a good 14 years after it caused extensive damage to the capital and other nearby areas.
Gonu’s ferocity saw cars effortlessly flung aside by gale-force winds, roads badly damaged, and caused flooding in many low-lying areas of the capital, Muscat, including the popular Qurum Commercial Centre and other nearby locations.
Electricity and water supply to parts of the country were temporarily cut off, and tens of thousands of people living in low-lying areas and Masirah Island were quickly evacuated to shelters set up by the government in anticipation of Gonu’s arrival. The authorities had also given people a five-day holiday so they could make preparations to remain safe when the cyclone made landfall, and asked everyone to stay indoors to avoid its furious impact.
“In our area, the schools were designated as shelters,” said Moaz Al Saidi, from Wilayat Khabourah in North Al Batinah. “The government had informed us about the impact of the cyclone, so everybody in our area moved there and stayed there for two days, until we were told it was safe to come out.”
Adding to this, Umm Ahmed, from Wilayat Saham, also in North Al Batinah, said, “We knew something severe was coming because we were watching regular weather updates on TV and online. The weather was worsening over time, we experienced uninterrupted rain, and the constant thunder and lightning made my children cry.
“A day after the cyclone first began, we were told by the authorities the need for people living by the coast to move inland, to shelters prepared by them,” she added. “I am glad to say all of us responded to their requests positively.”
Umm Ahmed was thankful for the care provided by the government to people who were required to shelter way from their homes. Good quality food, water, and juices had been provided for everyone, and the authorities had also organised medical care for those suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart ailments.
She had also brought her TV along so that everyone in the shelter could remain updated about the latest developments concerning the cyclone.
“We were shocked to see what had happened to some parts of Muscat,” she recalled. “We were very sad when we heard that some people had died, and others had sustained injuries because of the cyclone. When we returned to our homes, we saw that flood waters had entered many of our homes, and that many houses by the sea had collapsed, or were badly damaged, as were several fishing boats.”
In the capital, Grace Manuel, an expatriate from the Philippines, was glad she had brought back with her plenty of food during a recent trip home. It turned out to be extremely useful for both Grace’s family, and her neighbours.
“Many of the shops were closed at the time, because their owners and staff understandably needed to prepare themselves for the cyclone,” she said. “We did have supplies at home, but they ran out after a couple of days, and because the shops in our area were flooded and the roads had collapsed, we could not go anywhere.
“Fortunately, I had many long-lasting food items that I gave my own children, and then distributed to the neighbours,” added Grace. “I am glad I was able to help them. After all, we were all in it together.”