Cyclone Gonu wanes after slamming Oman and Iran

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 08 Jun 2007
By Diala Saadeh

DUBAI, June 8 (Reuters) - Cyclone Gonu's power was waning on Friday, after it killed at least 54 people and wrought damage in energy producers Oman and Iran earlier in the week.

An Iranian official said the hurricane had weakened and its "impact will be completely gone", the ISNA news agency reported.

At least 36 people have been reported missing in the storm, which had also raised fears of a disruption to exports from the Middle East, origin of more than a quarter of the world's oil. Oil prices rose to around $71 a barrel on Thursday.

Mina al Fahal, Oman's only oil terminal for its 650,000 barrel per day output, resumed operations after a three-day closure, a shipper said on Friday. But the main gas export terminal at Sur was yet to open and state media said there was still disruption to fuel distribution in the Gulf Arab state.

Omani television showed scenes of devastation, with cars piled on top of each other, and people lining up near tankers distributing drinking water.

Oman's state news agency ONA said 49 people had been killed and 27 were missing. Iranian media said on Friday another man had drowned, bringing to five the number of dead in Iran where nine have been reported missing.

Oman lowered its level of alert to orange from the maximum red and an official said conditions were "gradually returning to normal", ONA said. The agency said earlier that winds from Gonu, downgraded to a Category One hurricane since Wednesday, were moderate and sea waves were about 2 metres (6 ft) high.

The hurricane damaged roads and bridges connecting Oman's eastern provinces with the capital Muscat and caused floods and landslides. In central Muscat streets became turbulent rivers, trees were uprooted and power lines cut.

Rescue teams, using helicopters, searched for missing people and evacuated residents from valleys near the city.

One witness said he had to take his children to the roof of his three-storey house in Muscat to flee the rising water.

In Iran, people within 300 metres (yards) of the Gulf coast in Hormozgan province had been evacuated, and at least 300 villages were completely cut off, state television said.

Roads and houses in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan were damaged and many coastal areas were cut off by flooding.

OIL TERMINAL

The director of United Arab Emirates' eastern port of Fujairah, one of the world's largest ship refuelling centres, said 11 sailors -- nine Indians, a Sudanese and an Eritrean -- were rescued after their boat sank in Omani waters on Wednesday.

Port Director Moussa Murad said there were 10 sailors missing from the same boat.

The port reopened on Thursday after closing on Wednesday and Oman's Al Seeb airport reopened on Friday after three days.

Oman's Mina al Fahal oil terminal resumed operations after a three-day closure. Petroleum Development Oman said on Thursday operations and facilities had escaped damage.

PDO, a majority state-owned firm, produces most of Oman's crude. PDO expects its output to decline by around 20,000 bpd this year to between 560,000 and 570,000 bpd.

The main liquefied natural gas terminal at Sur, which was badly hit, was not operating, a shipper said. Sur terminal handles 10 million tonnes per year of LNG.

Sohar refinery and port reopened and these facilities were working as well as before the storm, the company said.

Oman says Gonu could be the strongest storm to reach its coast since 1977. That storm took an inland trajectory toward rural areas, while Gonu moved along the heavily populated coast.

(Additional reporting by Tehran bureau and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation:
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet