Video: Why Oman needs PACDA's search and rescue teams to stand ready
December 5, 2017 | 12:11 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan, [email protected]
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: PACDA/Twitter

Muscat: Search and rescue teams from Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance stand ready to help those in the country who find themselves trapped during natural disasters such as storms, floods and landslides.

The National Search and Rescue Team was formed by PACDA in the wake of Cyclone Gonu, which struck Oman on the 6th of June, 2007, to ensure that the Sultanate would be better prepared to help those who required aid.

With Oman expecting bad weather over the next few days, as a tropical storm intensifies over the Arabian Sea, PACDA highlighted the importance of its rescue teams in a video posted on the authority’s official Twitter account, and reassured residents and tourists in the Sultanate of help always being there for them.

“Nature is governed by norms and destiny,” said PACDA in the video. “Serenity is disturbed by earthquakes and collapses, calmness is overwhelmed by floods and storms, and life needs hope.

“In 2007, after climatic conditions, the need has become necessary to form a specialised search and rescue team,” added the agency in the video, which showed footage of natural disasters affecting people and property from Oman and the rest of the world, in addition to showcasing PACDA’s efforts in helping those who were stranded by disasters.

Gonu, which remains Oman’s largest natural disaster, struck the Sultanate on June 6, 2017, resulting in the deaths of 49 people and causing around OMR1.6 billion in damages, as it wreaked havoc across the nation, leading to wide-scale destruction of roads, disrupting electricity and water supplies to large parts of the country, and flooding many low-lying areas.

To ensure that the Sultanate is not caught off-guard once again, though, Oman has extensively invested in early warning systems and preventive measures. In the summer of 2016, a network of early warning weather stations were set up, to collect data that was previously unavailable, allowing emergency services to plan and execute rescue missions and relief operations in a better manner.

In addition, Oman’s National Disaster committee, involving the Royal Oman Police (ROP), Ministry of Health, Public Authority for Water Resources (Diam), PACDA, and many universities, was also set up, to ensure timely and proper evacuation plans, mobilisation of hospitals and more.

“There is now a very good airlifting system involving the ROP, Ministry of Defence and PACDA,” said Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, Associate Professor at Sultan Qaboos University’s Department of Engineering. “They’ve also built roads, so that they go through the mountain instead of through the wadi, to avoid flooding, and they have also reserved places to build shelters for emergency evacuation, with readymade access to power and water, so that camps and tents can be built very quickly,”

Oman also constructed new dams and dredged existing ones to divert storm waters, the biggest of them being the Wadi Dayqah dam in Quriyat, which was built in 2012.

Research is being done to identify vulnerable points that are prone to flash flooding, and to make this accessible to people via GPS systems and to notify them via SMS,” said Dr Abdullah Al-Mamun, Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering at SQU. “This began under the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources in 2014.”

Although the current storm is over the centre of the Arabian Sea, Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) has informed residents that the Sultanate will be unaffected by it.

According to numerical weather predictions charts the storm is likely to intensify and move towards the centre of Arabian Sea within the next 24 hours,” said PACA last Thursday. “The forecast indicates that the movement of tropical system will move towards the Indian sub-continent during the next few days without any effect over the Sultanate.”

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