Salalah returns to normalcy

MUSCAT, May 26 – Even as the tropical Cyclone Mekunu has weakened to a deep depression after making landfall in Salalah late on Friday night, the city, ravaged by heavy winds and torrential rains, is returning to normalcy. Still a high alert remains in force in Dhofar, with officials urging inhabitants, especially in Salalah, to remain indoors for the next 24 hours for all but essential travel. According to the National Multi-Hazard and Early Warning Centre, heavy thundershowers accompanied by strong winds may continue over Dhofar and Al Wusta governorates on Sunday as well.
“The sea state will be rough in Dhofar and Al Wusta with a wave height of 4 to 8 metres, while in the South Al Sharqiyah it will be around 3 metres,” said the warning note.
The toll in the catastrophic storm, meanwhile, reached two with the death of an Omani national on Saturday, said a source at the Royal Oman Police (ROP). The victim had tried to cross a flooded area in his vehicle before being washed away in the early hours of Saturday morning. Earlier on Friday, a 12-year-old girl who was hit in the head by a door flung open by the wind, succumbed to her injuries.
The cyclone caused widespread flooding in most parts of Dhofar Governorate, with Directorate-General of Meteorology recording 278.2 mm of rain in Salalah in 24 hours.
The Sahlanoot Dam in the Wilayat of Salalah reached its full capacity of 6 million cubic metres after receiving heavy rains. The security dam in Salalah stored 22.160 million cubic metres, while the Shako Dam reached its highest capacity of 3,000 cubic metres. The government, on directives from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, has declared a three-day holiday for both the public and private sectors in Dhofar Governorate, starting from Sunday with a view to ensure public safety and allow municipality workers to clean the streets of debris.
The Public Authority for Civil Aviation has announced the reopening of the Salalah Airport from 12:01 am on Sunday. At the same time, all emergency teams have been mobilised to assess the situation and damage the cyclone has left behind.
The ROP had sent a number of helicopters from the General Directorate of Police Aviation to Dhofar Governorate to assist in the provision of aid and contain the effects of climatic conditions.
“Telecommunication was excellent because we did not have any blackouts, but we had some effects on Dhalkout and Rakhyout due to power loss that was maintained for safety reasons. Each and every agency is working in parallel to assess the situation and begin maintenance of all critical and utility services immediately,” said Lt Col Faisal al Hajri, Director of the National Emergency Management Centre (NEMC).
There was no hindrance with water connectivity, telecommunication and information systems — data bases, websites and eGovernment facilities have all been working efficiently. Fuel stations have been reopened by Saturday ensuring availability of fuel, he said.
According to him, all the evacuees have also been supplied with all essentials in addition to food.
“We want to make sure we look after them until we know their dwellings and houses are safe to return. Various efforts had been taken the whole day. We are energised and excited that we could limit the loss of lives and damage as well as in number of missing people,” he added.

SAMUEL KUTTY