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Powerful cyclone deluges Oman, Iran; at least 9 dead

Tropical Cyclone Shaheen hits both nations’ coastlines, causing landslides and flash flooding; UAE also bracing for possible impact

High waves break on the sea side promenade in the Omani capital Muscat on October 2, 2021, as the Shaheen tropical storm hits the country. (MOHAMMED MAHJOUB / AFP)
High waves break on the sea side promenade in the Omani capital Muscat on October 2, 2021, as the Shaheen tropical storm hits the country. (MOHAMMED MAHJOUB / AFP)

MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) — At least nine people were killed in Oman and Iran on Sunday, as Tropical Cyclone Shaheen pummeled parts of their coastlines, authorities said.

In Oman, two people died in a landslide and a child in flash flooding, officials said.

Rescue teams pulled the bodies of two Asian workers from their home hit by a landslide in the Rusayl industrial area of Muscat province, Oman’s National Committee for Emergency Management said.

The child died and another person was reported missing in flash floods in the capital’s province, it added.

Flights were suspended and schools closed as the storm, with wind speeds up to 139 kilometers (86 miles) an hour, was due to cross Oman’s north coast in the evening.

In the capital, Muscat, vehicles were tire-deep in water and the streets were deserted.

A general view shows Ansab Dam amid cyclone Shaheen in Oman’s capital Muscat on October 3, 2021. (Haitham AL-SHUKAIRI / AFP)

Across the sea in Iran, six people were killed in Chabahar port in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, parliament’s news agency ICANA reported, citing deputy speaker Ali Nikzad.

“Infrastructure, including electrical facilities and roads, was damaged,” provincial governor Hossein Modarres-Khiabani told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The eye of the storm was 220 kilometers (130 miles) off the coast of the province, he said.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was also on “high alert,” emergency services said.

Some flights to and from Muscat International Airport were suspended “to avoid any risks,” the airport said, while the Civil Aviation Authority urged people to avoid low-lying areas and valleys.

High waves break on the sea side promenade in the Omani capital Muscat on October 2, 2021, as the Shaheen tropical storm hits the country. (MOHAMMED MAHJOUB / AFP)

Oman declared a two-day national holiday on Sunday and Monday and shuttered schools, “due to the adverse climate conditions,” the official Oman News Agency said.

‘High alert’

Deadly storms are periodic occurrences in the Gulf.

In July, northern Oman was hit by heavy rains, hail, and strong winds.

And in May 2018, Cyclone Mekunu hit southern Oman and the Yemeni island of Socotra, killing at least 11 people.

Oman, a country of some 4.6 million people, reopened its doors to foreign tourists last month, after a COVID-imposed closure.

The Gulf country — known for its rich heritage, scenic coastline, and stunning terrain — has been hit hard by the fall in world crude prices since 2014 and the coronavirus pandemic.

Flooding in the Omani capital Muscat, as the Shaheen tropical storm hits the country, October 3, 2021. (MOHAMMED MAHJOUB / AFP)

The sultanate had been counting on tourism to boost its flagging economy, but the virtual collapse of international leisure travel has set back those plans.

The UAE was also bracing for the possible impact of Cyclone Shaheen, with emergency authorities urging people to avoid beaches and low-lying areas.

“We would like to assure everyone that the concerned authorities are on high alert and prepared to deal with any upcoming tropical situation,” its National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said Saturday.

All construction work has been halted in Al-Ain, bordering Oman, until Tuesday, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said, while children will study remotely on Monday and Tuesday.

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