Update: Cyclone Mekunu gets closer to Dhofar as rains begin
Plans to evacuate people before tropical storm Mekunu hits parts of the Dhofar and Wusta Governorates are underway, as the nation springs into action to weather the worst of its effects. Here’s how tropical storm ‘Mekunu’ could affect Oman over the next three days
The storm, which is currently over the Arabian Sea, is expected to intensify into a Category Two cyclone – which has been christened “Mekunu” – within the next 36 hours, and is likely to make a landfall in southern Oman and northern Yemen on Thursday. Read here: Ministry of Health ready to deal with Mekunu storm
The latest reports from the Weather Monitoring Department of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) say the clouds that are part of the storm are currently 80km from Salalah
, the capital of Dhofar Governorate.
Mekunu is currently moving towards the Omani coastline at a speed of 136kph, with wind speeds touching up to 90kph. While parts of the Dhofar Governorate could be severely affected by the storm, the surrounding areas could also experience heavy rain, thunderstorms and strong winds.
Wind speeds could rise up to 135kph, while waves as high as eight metres could crash onto the seashore. Video: 10 things to remember to stay safe ahead of Cyclone Mekunu
Extensive preparations have been made by several public authorities to ensure the safety of lives and property, with the National Committee for Civil Defence, headed by Lt Gen Hassan Al Shraiqi, Inspector General of Police and Customs, going over the preparedness of various emergency services.
Oman’s Ministry of Defence has moved to evacuate the inhabitants of the Hallaniyat Islands, which could strongly feel the impact of Mekunu.
“Evacuation of citizens and residents from the Hallaniyat Islands to safe areas started today,” announced the ministry.
“The Royal Air Force of Oman carried out a number of flights today in support of the efforts by all the government security agencies.”
A number of critical facilities, such as desalination plants, transmission stations and electricity distribution centres that provide electricity and water to people in these areas have drawn up emergency plans. Read also: Mekunu storm could affect flight timings: Oman Air
The Authority for Electricity Regulation (AER) said: “The authority contacted all desalination plants, transmission and distribution licencees to activate emergency plans and take all precautionary measures to ensure the continuity and safe operation of their facilities and safeguard the security of electricity supply and water production. The electricity sector is well prepared to address any emergency caused by the tropical storm and all efforts will be made to restore supplies to the affected areas. The authority remains confident in the sector companies’ ability to deal with emergency situations through the emergency plans that have been prepared and tested.” Read here: Electricity service providers in Oman 'prepared' for Mekunu
Oman’s National Transport Company Mwasalat announced that it would suspend services from Muscat to Dhofar and Wusta from Thursday. In a statement online, it said: “Mwasalat announces the suspension of trips from Muscat to Dhofar and Al Wusta and vice versa, as of Thursday, May 24, 2018. Mwasalat wishes to reiterate that it is keeping an eye on updates from PACA. Dates for resumption of trips will be communicated with the general public upon the instruction of PACA.” Also read: Mwasalat suspends six bus routes ahead of Mekunu
Mwasalat said the suspension was to ensure passengers’ safety as the two governorates would be affected by the extraordinary weather conditions. The Muscat-Salalah, Muscat-Marmul, Muscat-Duqm, Salalah-Mazyuna, Duqm-Haima, and Salalah-Marmool routes would be suspended. However, Mwasalat would operate three trips on Thursday at 7am, 10am and 3pm.
PACA’s official Twitter account has been broadcasting warnings about Mekunu in Arabic, French and Hindi.
The last high-intensity tropical storm that hit Dhofar was in 2002, and led to the death of eight people, including six Omanis. The storm resulted in a substantial loss to property.