Every dry wadi or a slow-running stream that we see can be a potential death trap during rains or flashfloods.
Every year, many lives are lost, properties damaged and life thrown out of gear because of flashfloods.
Flash floods occur when it rains rapidly on dry soil with poor absorption ability. The runoff collects in streams. As they join to form larger volumes, they form a fast-flowing front of water and debris.
After Gonu, the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, ravaged parts of Oman in 2007, the country has been on alert for such natural calamities and has beefed up its preparedness.
Various efforts are in place to combat such disasters, including an early warning system that alerts the authorities some six hours before any calamity strikes.
Additionally, systems are in place in areas with a rough terrain, at small drainage basins as well as wadis, where floodwaters can rise quickly with little or no warning.
Added to these combined efforts from the Royal Oman Police (ROP), the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA), the Muscat Municipality and the local people, awareness campaigns are conducted from time to time to educate the common people about adverse weather and the importance of not stepping out of home unless necessary and not to cross overflowing wadis.
Yet, flashfloods continue to cause havoc, with more people becoming vulnerable to such calamities.
Also needed are laws that make crossing wadis during rains a criminal offence, said a lawyer associated with an embassy in Muscat. “It (acts of crossing wadis) should be classified ‘attempt to suicide’ and offenders should be charged with culpable homicide.”
Experts feel construction activities should not be allowed near wadis, and the civic authority should keep a watch on such activity.
Improving the drainage system and constructing dams to store flood water are some of the important steps recommended to prevent flooding.
A PACDA representative feels preventive measures always help than making efforts to mitigate losses after the disaster has struck.
A Muscat Municipality representative said a strategy is already in place in Muscat to prevent flooding. As the capital city has no overlapping system of drainage, the government has been asked to spend the resources required for having an infrastructure for the same.
“The strategy includes construction of dams in sensitive areas, three of which have already been built, one each in Al Amerat, Qurayat and Al Khoudh,” says the Muscat Municipality.
Twenty more dams have been planned in the near future. The building of drainage channels in areas severely affected by rain is another strategy advised by experts.
The municipality has also intensified efforts to deal with the flooding of streets and overflowing of drainage channels. It has also built water drainage channels along the main roads and central areas to absorb large quantities of water.
Technical teams have started cleaning drainage channels and removing filth from the streets.
However, the onus is on people who should heed calls from authorities. People should refrain from venturing into the waters or driving in flash floods or speeding. They should be extra careful in mountainous areas and near lamp posts, and encourage their family members, friends and relatives to be careful too.