Cyclone Mekunu kills one in southern Oman


SALALAH, Oman: Cyclone Mekunu on Friday lashed southern Oman with high winds and rain, killing at least one person and wounding three a day after wreaking havoc on the Yemeni island of Socotra.

Oman´s directorate general of meteorology said the centre of the cyclone struck west of Salalah, the second largest city in the Gulf state, late Friday accompanied with strong winds, torrential rains and high tides.

“Latest observations show that the centre of the cyclone hit the coast of Dhofar province,” west of Salalah, the main city in the province, the directorate said in its latest warning.

State-run Oman Television showed footage of large areas covered with floods in Dhofar and the nearby Al-Wusta provinces.

Dozens of vehicles were seen submerged in several areas.

Head of the directorate Abdullah al-Khoduri told Oman TV that the cyclone, which intensified to category 2 early Friday, was downgraded to category 1 after losing some of its strength.

He said it would weaken further Saturday morning into a tropical storm and gradually diminish into a tropical depression before hitting the southern parts of Saudi Arabia.

The cyclone also hit areas in southeast Yemen neighbouring Oman.

Thousands of residents near the coastal areas in the two provinces have been evacuated to safer shelters as winds up to of 170 kilometres (105 miles) per hour and torrential rainfall lashed the coastal areas, officials said.

Civil defence authorities said they had set up 65 shelter centres in the two affected provinces.

Police said a 12-year old girl died when a gust of wind sent her smashing into a wall. Three Asians who were wounded by the cyclone were rescued.

Police also said that civil defence teams had rescued dozens of people who were trapped because of floods.

Civil defence said it had evacuated 10,000 people from schools and government buildings, mainly in the city of Salalah which has a population of 200,000.

Authorities have urged other residents to stay indoors.

Strong winds had already generated 12-metre-high (40-foot-high) waves offshore of the sultanate.

The civil aviation authority closed Salalah airport until midnight on Saturday.