Three dead, 40 missing as Cyclone Mekunu hits Oman

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Cyclone Mekunu blew into the Arabian Peninsula early Saturday, drenching arid Oman and Yemen, cutting off power lines and leaving at least three dead and 40 missing, officials said.

Portions of Salalah, Oman's third-largest city, lost electricity as the cyclone made landfall. The Arabian Sea churned Saturday morning, sending mounds of sea foam into the air. The waves ate into one tourist beach, pulling hunks of it away and toppling thatch umbrellas cemented into the sand.

“Latest observations show that tropical Cyclone Mekunu has intensified to category 2,” with high wind speeds, Oman's directorate general of meteorology said on Twitter.|

Omani civil defense authorities said the cyclone made land in the southern provinces of Dhofar and Al-Wusta.

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

Police said a 12-year old girl died when a gust of wind caused her to collide with a wall.

SEE ALSO: Cyclone Mekunu expected to downgrade into Tropical Storm, Saudi Arabia affected

Civil defense 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-meter-high waves offshore of the sultanate.

Mekunu was also headed towards the southeastern provinces of Yemen.

On Thursday, the storm pummelled the island of Socotra in war-torn Yemen, leaving at least 19 people missing, causing severe flooding and material damage.

Yemen’s fisheries minister Fahad Kafin said that of those missing, 14 were Indian sailors who were at the island’s port when the cyclone struck.

He told AFP that authorities have recovered the bodies of the five Yemeni nationals and two Indians and were still searching for the remaining 12.

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Oman gears up as Cyclone Mekunu turns into category 2 cyclone

He said that 1,000 families have been evacuated to safety after their homes were affected by flooding.

Saudi teams on the island managed to open the main road between the island’s capital and its airport, he said.

The government declared the island in the northwest Indian Ocean, part of a UNESCO-protected archipelago for its rich biodiversity, a “disaster” zone.

The Yemeni high relief agency met with international humanitarian organizations in Aden late on Thursday to discuss the situation, the country’s Saba news agency reported.

They decided to set up 11 relief centers in Socotra to provide shelter for evacuees.

The meeting also discussed measures to provide aid to residents of three provinces in southeast Yemen also hit by the cyclone.

Across the border in Oman, authorities placed police and army on alert and closed schools until Monday in preparation for the cyclone.

State-run television said authorities had evacuated hundreds of residents from a small island off Salalah, the city where Oman’s Sultan Qaboos was born.

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

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

(AP and AFP)

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