International News

Cyclone Mekunu subsides after lashing Oman, killing five

Cyclone Mekunu was downgraded further to a deep depression Saturday, a day after lashing the southern coast of Oman and killing at least five people, authorities said.
Civil defence officials said a man and a 12-year-old girl were killed, while three Asian nations were missing after the cyclone hit Oman´s Dhofar and Al-Wusta provinces.
Oman police earlier reported that the man died after floods swept him away with his car near Salalah, Oman´s second-largest city, while the girl died when a gust of wind smashed her into a wall.
Mekunu, which has wreaked havoc in Yemen´s Socotra island killing at least seven people, was heading northwest to Saudi Arabia, Oman´s directorate of meteorology said.
It is expected to hit parts of the Empty Quarter, one of the world´s most arid deserts, later Saturday, it said.
The meteorology department said the latest weather charts and satellite imageries indicate that Mekunu´s intensity has dropped to “a deep depression”.
It warned however that heavy rain and strong winds of about 60 kilometres (37 miles) an hour would continue to pummel Dhofar and Al-Wusta provinces, while sea conditions were rough with high tides reaching eight meters (yards).
Mekunu had intensified to a category two cyclone as it hit Dhofar and Al-Wusta on the Arabian Sea on Friday, battering the coast with torrential rains, strong winds and massive waves.
Three wounded Asians were rescued and civil defence teams said they had saved hundreds of people including 260 foreign sailors trapped at sea.
Five Yemenis and two Indian sailors were confirmed dead when Mekunu hit Socotra in war-torn Yemen on Thursday, causing heavy damage, Yemen´s fisheries minister Fahad Kafin said.
The government declared the island in the northwest Indian Ocean, part of a UNESCO-protected archipelago for its rich biodiversity, a “disaster” zone.
Rescue teams on Friday found alive four Indian sailors who were among 17 who had been reported missing when the cyclone hit Socotra´s port, and search operations are continuing for eight Indian sailors.
In Salalah, the heavy rain had almost stopped on Saturday, an AFP photographer said, but many streets were still under water and nearby valleys were flooded.
Material damage was mostly limited to agriculture, with many farms swept by winds blowing at up to 170 kilometres (105 miles), he added.
Oman´s civil aviation meanwhile decided to reopen on Sunday Salalah Airport, which had been closed for the past three days.
Authorities said however that schools would remain closed until Monday.
The civil aviation authority closed Salalah airport until midnight on Saturday.
On Thursday, the storm pummelled the island of Socotra in war-torn Yemen, leaving at least five people dead and 40 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.
Later, Socotro governor Ramzy Mahrous told Saba news agency that four sailors who were missing were found alive on Friday.
Kafin said that 1,000 families were evacuated to safety after there 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.
Saudi troops were deployed to Socotra earlier this month following tensions over an Emirati military presence on the island.
The Yemeni high relief agency met with international humanitarian organisations in Aden late Thursday to discuss the situation, the country´s Saba news agency reported.
They decided to set up 11 relief centres in Socotra to provide shelter for evacuees.
In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through Oman, killing at least 49 people and causing damage estimated at $3.9 billion (3.3 billion euros).