Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Crown Prince send cable of condolences to Sultan Qaboos of Oman over victims of Cyclone Phet

Oman withstands cyclone impact that left 12 killed and others missing

Sultanate resumes oil, gas exports after short stop

Cyclone headed to Pakistan

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has sent a cable of condolences to Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the cyclone that struck different parts of Oman causing deaths, casualties and missing of people.

In his own name and on behalf of the people and government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the King expressed deep condolences and sincere sympathy to Oman's Sultan and the families of the victims, praying to Allah Almighty to bless their souls.

Also, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, has sent a cable of condolences to Sultan Qaboos on the cyclone that struck different parts of Oman causing deaths, casualties and missing of people.

In his cable, the Crown Prince expressed deep condolences and sincere sympathy to Oman's Sultan and the family of the victims, praying to Allah Almighty to bless their souls.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Phet killed 12 people and left one missing in Oman before barreling towards Pakistan, the head of Oman's civil defense force said on Saturday.

Nine Omanis and three expatriates were killed by the storm, General Malek al-Muammari told Omani state television.

He told AFP that one of the three dead expatriates was from Bangladesh and a second was from Pakistan, while the nationality of the third was unknown.

An earlier statement on the official ONA news agency had said that victims included six people, among them a civil defense member, who were swept away by flood waters caused by rainfall from the cyclone.

Authorities said Phet had weakened in intensity on Friday before heading at wind speeds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) an hour towards Pakistan, where some 60,000 people have been evacuated from the south coast to safer areas.

The situation in Oman appeared to be returning to normal on Saturday. An AFP correspondent said that the rain had stopped and skies were relatively clear over Muscat and in most of the affected areas on Oman's eastern coast.

Rescue teams were working to reopen roads, restore electricity and repair water mains damaged by floodwaters, Muammari said in a statement carried by ONA.

Before the cyclone, the Omani authorities had taken several precautionary measures, evacuating hotels along the east coast and airlifting the residents of Masirah island to safer areas. The islanders were beginning to return on Saturday, Muammari said on state television.

In 2007, cyclone Gonu tore through Oman, killing at least 49 people and causing damage estimated at 3.9 billion dollars.

Lt. Gen. Malek bin Sulaiman al Maamari, Inspector-General of Police and Customs and head of the National Committee for Civil Defense (NCCD) has said the force of the Cyclone Phet has eased and it’s path has taken a diversion to the right of Masirah and overtook the island. “And that is a source of satisfaction.”

In a statement to Oman News Agency (ONA), he said the cyclone is now moving eastward towards the Sharqiyah Region and will affect the number of wilayats including the Wilayat of Sur.

He said the cyclone weakened after the speed of the wind in its centre reduced from 140 km/hour to 110 km/hr. However, he said warnings have not changed specially in the Sharqiyah region, Muscat Governorate, Dhakhliyah Region, Dhahirah region and Al Buraimi Governorate as heavy rains are expected to fall in these areas causing wadi flows.

Meanwhile, coastal communities along the entire eastern seaboard of the Sultanate, extending from Sur to Duqm, steeled themselves for a potentially deadly pounding from Cyclone Phet as it hurtled towards Oman.

The Category 2 storm, packing winds of 140 kilometers per hour at its centre, is predicted to slam into the Sultanate’s east coast between Masirah Island and Ras al Hadd early this morning. Besides unleashing thunderstorms and gale-force winds, the cyclone will spark powerful storm surges at various places along the Sharqiyah, the Directorate General of Meteorology and Air Navigation (DGMAN) warned.

Emergency services led by the National Committee for Civil Defense (NCCD), meanwhile, ramped up their alert level as Cyclone Phet continued to speed towards Oman. As part of a huge emergency operation that was launched early on Wednesday, the government pressed ahead with its evacuation of people from vulnerable areas, while pre-positioning essential supplies and personnel in villages and towns at risk of being cut off in the event of severe flooding.

In what appears to be a weakening of its potency, Phet was downgraded from a Category 3 storm.

According to DGMAN’s latest statement, Phet was centered in an area west of the Arabian Sea 20 degrees North and 59 degrees East. Its centre was placed some 70 kilometers east of Masirah Island.

The cyclone is projected to travel parallel to the coastline at Masirah at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour. The eye of the storm is forecast to make landfall sometime this morning somewhere between Masirah Island and Ras al Hadd, with storm surges powered by three-meter waves likely along the Sharqiyah coast.

Convective clouds associated with the cyclone’s massive girth are forecast to trigger thundershowers accompanied by strong winds in Muscat and Buraimi governorates and the Batinah and Interior regions as well. The wet and unsettled conditions are expected to prevail during the next 24 hours, DGMAN stated.

The National Committee of Civil Defense broadcast warnings by SMS urging citizens and residents to “exercise extreme caution, stay away from the sea and wadis during the unusual weather conditions and to follow safety guidelines”. Fishermen and seafarers have been strictly warned against venturing out to sea.

Heavy showers accompanied by winds of up to 110 kilometers per hour lashed Masirah and parts of the Sharqiyah region as Cyclone Phet bore down on the Oman coast.

Meanwhile, at the behest of the National Committee for Civil Defense, which oversees all civil emergencies and natural disasters in the Sultanate, health authorities in the Sharqiyah region were placed on ‘high alert’ ahead of Phet’s arrival.

Doctors and paramedical staff in all major disciplines were asked to hold off all non-essential travel over the weekend, and to remain in a state of readiness, an official at Sur Hospital said. “All key departments have been told to have a section of their emergency staff on call and the others to stand-by should their services be required at short notice,” the official told the Observer by telephone from Sur.

Also at Sur, health officials scrambled to ensure there were enough hospital beds to cater to any medical emergencies arising out of the unfolding weather crisis. An Ops Centre was also set up at the local health centre to oversee all health-related emergencies arising out of Tropical Cyclone Phet’s much-anticipated potentially destructive brush past the Sultanate’s eastern seaboard.

Unlike, Masirah and the Ras al Hadd coastal stretch of the Sharqiyah region, which was the focus of a major overnight evacuation exercise in the run-up to Phet’s approach, the bustling town of Sur was relatively calm, say residents.

“Although people are generally unnerved about what the cyclone has in store for them, we’re not seeing any mass-scale exodus of the kind that was reported by local media elsewhere along the Sharqiyah coast,” an ENT specialist said.

At Masirah, several thousands of people joined the exodus from the island on Wednesday, heeding advisories from authorities to relocate to safer areas. Masirah Island, along with the Ras al Hadd – Ras Madrakah coastal belt, is expected to face the brunt of Phet’s ferocity.

Relief flights operated by the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) and Oman Air ferried several thousand people to safety in dozens of sorties undertaken during the course of Wednesday.

The vast majority were brought to Muscat. Civil Defense authorities arranged to provide temporary accommodation to families that could not find alternative lodgings for the duration of the cyclone crisis. Companies that have employees working areas lying in the path of the cyclone, have moved their staff to hotels and lodgings in Muscat and elsewhere, it is learnt.

Ferries were also pressed into service to enable scores of people to flee the island for the safety of villages and towns on the mainland. Sinaw and Sur were popular destinations for significant numbers of evacuees leaving by ferry and road.

In order to cater to the throngs of evacuees, car owners were told to leave their vehicles behind at the jetty at Masirah Island.

Parking lots at Masirah air base as well were chockfull with cars left behind by their owners as they boarded relief flights out of the island.

Also joining the exodus from the island were guests staying at Masirah’s recently launched tourist landmark — Swiss Belhotel Resort Masirah Island. Although many of the guests were keen to stay put and sit out the storm, they eventually checked out on the advice of authorities who had warned that the island sits virtually at ‘ground zero’ on the storm’s path.

A majority of the hotel’s 25-member staff too boarded flights to Muscat late on Wednesday, leaving the property in the hands of a small, core team of senior colleagues who decided to stay back to secure the hotel from Phet’s anticipated onslaught.

“Five of us volunteered to stay behind, not only to look after the property, but also to be able to help the people of Masirah should our services be required during the cyclone,” said Joe Coelho, General Manager.

“The Royal Oman Police are happy to see that a small team is staying on keep an eye on things. Senior executives from the hotel’s owners, Omran, too have been in constant touch with us to make sure that all’s well at our end.”

The beachfront Swiss Belhotel Resort, which overlooks the Arabian Sea, is a magnet for tourists at this time of year attracted by a range of windsurfing and water sports activities available on the island. Turtle nesting is also a major attraction on the island.

In anticipation of a pounding from Cyclone Phet, the staff moved all loose fixtures and furniture indoors, said Coelho.

“We were also advised by the ROP not to be anywhere near glass windows when the storm hits, given the likelihood of shattering panes causing injuries. At the critical time, we will be shifting to the safety of secure rooms within the hotel.”

“We anticipate the storm passing over Masirah Island during the 4 to 7am timeframe early on Friday, peaking at 6am or so. Accordingly, we have decided to turn in Thursday, and to be up well before the storm hits. We are keeping our fingers crossed that all will eventually be well,” Coelho told the Observer.

Further south at Al Ashkarah, officials at Al Ashkarah Youth Hostel, a popular getaway for families and tourists, decided to temporarily shut down the facility in anticipation of the cyclone.

Non-OPEC producer Oman resumed crude exports from the Mina Fahal terminal late on Sunday, an Oman oil official said on Monday.

Oman exports around 730,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and condensate from the port. It exports most of its crude production to Asia.

The Gulf Arab state halted its oil and gas production after Cyclone Phet hit its coast.

Gas production operations at Oman LNG were restarted on Saturday after being halted on Friday as a precautionary measure. Oman's annual LNG production stands at around 8 million tonnes.

Also the UAE's eastern port of Fujairah, one of the world's biggest operations for bunkering, reopened on Sunday, a source told Reuters.

The port was not officially closed but only a few ships had come to load, an official from the port's central command said on Friday.

On the other hand, strong wind and rain killed 10 people, damaged property and flooded homes in southern Pakistan in the last 24 hours, but the disaster Cyclone Phet threatened to bring was averted, officials said Monday.

"The death toll has gone up to 10. Seven died in Karachi and three were killed in Hyderabad," Sindh province's health minister, Saghir Ahmed, told AFP.

Those killed in Karachi were all electrocuted. They included a 12-year-old boy who was playing outside his home in a stagnant pool when a snapped live wire fell into the water next to him, the minister said.

Property was damaged in the towns of Thatta and Badin, and a small building collapsed in Karachi, he said.

Children could be seen retrieving furniture and pouring out rainwater from shanty homes in Karachi.

Chief meteorologist Mohammad Riaz said Cyclone Phet turned into a low depression after making landfall in Thatta and Badin, and moved towards Rajasthan in India.

Pakistan's military said it air-lifted relief goods to southwestern coastal towns, including blankets, pillows and tents.

Pakistan had battened down the hatches and prepared for an emergency after Cyclone Phet killed 16 people in Oman.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from vulnerable coastal villages in Sindh, but thousands more refused to abandon their homes.

Hospitals in the Karachi area were also put on alert and medicines and tinned food stockpiled after meteorologists warned the cyclone might uproot power and communication lines along the coast.