Hikka downgraded to storm

MUSCAT: The category 1 tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea, named Hikka by the Maldives, was downgraded on Tuesday to a tropical storm with surface wind speed around the centre between 45 and 55 knots.

Duqm city and the Al Wusta region reported heavy rains since 3 pm on Tuesday compared to Masirah where rains stopped after initial heavy showers in the morning.

Health services in Al Wusta and South Sharqiyah governorates are operating normally with no damage as a result of the tropical situation.

There are nine shelter homes operating in Al Wusta proving 745 citizens and residents, said the National Committee for Civil Defence (NCCD).

No deaths have been recorded in Duqm Hospital as a result as of late Tuesday, NCCD said.

Phone connections were reportedly erratic with no or little network range as the Observer tried to get information from its sources in Al Duqm.

“It started raining heavily in Duqm from 3 pm and most of the areas are flooded with water entering some apartments. Electricity is still available, while the strength of the rains has weakened a bit,” a resident at Renaissance Village in Duqm told the Observer over phone.

All aircraft, both passenger and cargo flights, which originate from or head towards six countries that share airspace with Oman, have been advised to use alternative routes. “At 6:25 pm, Duqm Airport recorded wind speed of 52 knots with gusts of up to 67 knots accompanied by heavy rains in conjunction with the approach of the tropical cyclone Hikka,” the authorities said. Meanwhile, some medium and high clouds are seen in Muscat and which is what is expected on Wednesday as well.

The Central Committee for Crisis Management at the Ministry of Education suspended classes at all public and private schools till Thursday in South Al Sharqiyah and Al Wusta governorates.

Mwasalat suspended bus services on Muscat-Jaalan, Muscat-Sur, Muscat-Duqm, Muscat-Shannah and Muscat-Duqm-Haima routes on Tuesday. The company said the decision is taken in view of the safety of passengers.

“The direct impact next will be on the coastal areas, but there would be indirect impact in North and South Al Sharqiyah governorates with light to moderate rain, and some rain can be expected in the northern parts of Dhofar,” said Nasser al Ismaili, weather forecaster at the National Multi Hazard Early Warning Centre.

The rough sea state was reported over the coastal areas of South Al Sharqiyah and Al Wusta with maximum wave height ranging between 4 and 6 metres. The sea state will be moderate along the rest of Omani coasts with maximum wave height between 1.5 and 2.5 metres.

The Public Authority for Civil Aviation urged the public to take precaution and stay away from low-lying areas and avoid crossing wadis.