Once again I have become witness to the fury of nature. The capital city of Muscat along with many other areas in the Sultanate was beaten black and blue by the severe cyclonic winds.
‘Shaheen’, which means Royal White Falcon, began to emerge in the Arabian Sea on Friday was a powerful tropical cyclone that caused widespread damage.
It wreaked havoc with a package of petrifying winds, consistent rainfall, collapsing of buildings, fall of trees, landslide, shattering of glass windows, blowing off roofs and many other things to recall and revisit.
Lull before the storm was particularly very peculiar on Saturday when the climatic conditions roughly changed from humidity to a sudden drop in the temperatures followed by winds in several areas.
The ferocious high speed cyclonic winds accompanied by rains ravaged many parts of the country. Flash floods prompted evacuation from coastal areas. Movement of vehicles came to a halt and flights were delayed or put off to and from Muscat.
Since my arrival in Oman in 1998, Shaheen is the seventh cyclone that I have been witness to. Cyclone Gonu in 2007 was the strongest of all, leaving a trail of destruction which will never fade from the memories.
Even after 14 years, the terrible memories still haunt those who were living in Muscat or Sur, the most affected areas, during the devastating days.
I remember spending three days without communication, water and electricity even as officials, workers and volunteers worked day and night to clean, repair damages and drain flood water and remove slush.
The way people rallied and helped each other irrespective of nationality was astounding. The government was quick to step in to provide care to people who were required shelter and other needs.
Good quality food, water, and juices have been provided for everyone, and the authorities had also organised medical care for those suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart ailments.
From the ferocious Gonu to the strong Mekunu, the Sultanate was able to survive all the calamities with a united fight.
At the same time, let me say that all these natural disasters underscore the need for further strengthening of disaster planning. I do not deny the fact that natural disasters are by their very nature unpredictable and more can always be done to limit their impact when they strike.
Of course, the country has a well-orchestrated mechanism in place to cope in the face of natural catastrophes thanks to various authorities in national emergency, crisis and disaster management.
This has been evident from the way the country was able to manage and reduce the damages and fatalities during the devastating Shaheen storm. The healthcare infrastructure along with other official machinery was geared to respond quickly.
His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik issued orders to form a ministerial committee to assess the damages that were caused to citizens' homes and properties in the governorates that took the brunt of the tropical condition.
The committee is tasked to act immediately to provide all forms of support and assistance to citizens and alleviate the impacts.
The Oman Charitable Organisation and a number of charities and volunteer teams announced on Monday the opening of the donation portal. Various other teams have also announced that they are running voluntary groups to help with damages and clean-up operations.
In addition, a number of companies announced donating sums for the benefit of those affected. Omantel and Bank Sohar announced the allocation of five million in interest-free loans to the affected people. A number of electrical and home maintenance shops announced that they would provide their services for free.
Whatever comes, whether natural calamities like tropical storms or catastrophes like Covid-19 pandemic, Oman has a good leadership and loyal people to live up to the situation. United we will fight for recovery and survival!