Muscat: Tropical storm Hikaa lashed central Oman with high winds and torrential rainfall on Tuesday evening, according to Oman’s weather monitoring authority.
A family of seven members was rescued by a group of Omanis after they got trapped in heavy rains due to the storm.
A statement by the Oman National Emergency Management Centre read: “A family of seven was stranded by Hikaa’s passing, but they were rescued by Omanis.”
Also read: Six rescued from bus trapped in wadi in Oman
Furthermore, not a single causality was reported in Duqm hospital until this evening.
“No deaths have been recorded in Duqm Hospital as a result of Hikaa until this moment,” the centre added at 9:46 PM.
Even in Masirah, there has not been a single case of “anyone needing shelter nor there have been reports of property damage.”
Hikaa had initially begun as a tropical depression over the Arabian Sea, characterised by heavy winds and rough seas, before accelerating into a tropical storm, and then becoming a cyclone on Tuesday morning.
It was subsequently recategorised as a tropical storm by the Public Authority of Civil Aviation (PACA) on Tuesday evening.
In a statement, PACA said, “The category of the tropical system Hikaa has gone back to ‘tropical storm’, since its windspeed around the centre now range between 45-55 knots.” The storm brought with it waterlogged roads and fast-flowing wadis – some of them overflowing in the Sharqiyah and Al Wusta governorates.
“The weather station of Duqm airport recorded a mean wind of 52 knots and gusting of 67 knots at 6.25 pm accompanied with heavy rain,” Oman’s meteorological department said.
Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) evacuated people who found themselves stranded in Shannah, the crossing point between the mainland and Masirah Island. As a precaution, several public transport services had temporarily ceased operations to these regions.
The National Ferries Company, which operates regular boats between Shannah and Masirah – the only way to get to the island – had temporarily halted its ferry schedules. Mwasalat, the national road transport company, had also considered ceasing those bus routes that involved travel to Sharqiyah and Al Wusta.
Schools in the affected regions have also been shut following announcements over the expected impact of the cyclone. An official from the Ministry of Education said, “The Ministry of Education decided to suspend study in all public and private schools in Al Sharqiyah South and Al Wusta Governorates starting from Tuesday afternoon 24 September, until Thursday evening, 26 September.”
Visitors who had arrived at Masirah Island just a few days ago also have to stay on the island until the storm passes. Among them is Salim Ahmed Al Maawali, who had come to the island with his colleague. They had checked in to the resort having planned to leave on Tuesday morning. They, however, have since needed to postpone their departure until ferry services resume.
“Around noon, there was no rain but it was really windy,” said Salim, speaking to Times of Oman from Masirah Island on Tuesday.
“From the forecast, the storm was expected to properly start by 3.00pm. Yes, I have informed my family of the current situation, and they wish for me and my colleague to be safe. We have experienced Gonu and Phet as well so we know what to expect.
“I was on the welfare and relief committee to help our company staff members and community who had been affected during Gonu,” added Al Maawali. “The moment ferry services resume, we will leave Masirah Island. Our plan was to leave on Tuesday morning but we were told that there was no ferry service.”
“There were very rough winds, and it poured quite heavily yesterday morning,” said Derrell Pinto at the Masirah Island Resort.
“We have only three rooms booked at the moment. The effects of the storm were quite bad because the wind was picking up and there was a lot of rain. We were unable to go outside the resort because the wind was far too strong. The peak of the storm was expected to hit us between 3.00 and 6.00 pm. All of the ferries had stopped operating, but we hadn’t received any evacuation orders. He added, “In case of any contingency plan, we coordinate with the air force base on the island, and we had closed off all open areas. We asked our guests to stay in their rooms and provided them room service if and when needed. We were quite calm on Tuesday because a lot of us had previously experienced the impact of these storms.”
Emergency services and public bodies in Oman had begun preparations long before the clouds that herald the arrival of a storm were first spotted on the horizon over the Arabian Sea. Spearheaded by the National Committee for Civil Defence, rescue teams kicked into action to ensure losses of life and property were kept to a minimum.
Storm shelters were erected by the Ministry of Social Development in two schools on Masirah Island, as well as in the Wusta Governorate.
Speaking exclusively to Times of Oman, a Royal Oman Police official who was overseeing safety operations in the region, said, “So far we have seen some rain, and the wind has been very heavy, which makes visibility difficult. We have 73 people taking shelter at the moment but there have been no emergencies. The spokesperson said that in Masirah itself, few people have gone to the shelters, and that they had not issued an evacuation notice to people on the island. “We did have varying degrees of rain, but mostly light to medium rain from the morning. At around 3.00 pm, the situation calmed down again. We have one school set out for expats to take shelter in, that one is Muhallab bin Abi Sufra School.”
In Duqm, rain was just starting to pick up during the evening, but the spokesperson said that both citizens and residents are still extremely cooperative.
“We have not had reports of emergencies where we needed to intervene and rescue people, but we are of course ready in case this is needed. We have multiple shelters here. There are around 90 expats in one shelter, as well as near 70 Omanis in another, and 10 other expat families as well.”
In Duqm — where foundations are being laid to convert a former fishing village into Oman’s non-oil supercity of the future — a number of key industrial installations were evacuated as a precaution, while workers in other factories were briefed on emergency evacuation drills.
“Sezad, represented by the Risk Management Department, has taken all precautionary measures since the initial announcement of this adverse weather condition,” an official for the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm, said.
“A dedicated emergency response team has been formed to meet with all companies, contractors and concerned bodies in Duqm, who were advised to evacuate sites when required. The team also visited those sites that could potentially be affected and employees were briefed on evacuation procedures.”
He added, “All potential sites have been evacuated including Oman Dry Dock, Port of Duqm, Duqm Refinery and the labour residences, which were built near the valleys using unfixed material. Sezad continues its various ways of communications to update corporates operating in Duqm. Besides, Sezad is in ongoing contact with the Public Authority for Civil Aviation and other concerned authorities to take further action whenever required.”