A cyclone more powerful than any previously recorded in southern Oman precipitated a year of rainfall on Saturday in the Gulf and neighboring Yemen single day. The storm killed at least five people, while more than 30 continue to be missing, it said.
The cyclone Mekunu caused flash floods that ripped through streets and sank others in Salalah, Oman's third largest city. Strong winds knocked over street lamps and tore roofs away.
Rushing waters from the rain and storm surges usually flooded dry stream beds. The now empty tourist beaches of the holiday destination were littered with debris and foam from the turbulent Arabian Sea.
Three people, including a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman, and two more bodies were taken out of the sea. Yemeni island of Socotra. More than 30 people were still missing in Socotra, including Yemeni, Indian and Sudanese nationals.
Yemeni officials also reported damage in the extreme east of the country, along the border with Oman. Maharaj Governor Rageh Bakrit said on Friday on his official Twitter account that strong winds had burnt down homes and destroyed communications and water supplies. He said there were no casualties in the province.
The Indian Weather Agency said the storm seized maximum sustained winds of 105-111 mph with gusts of up to 124 mph. He called the cyclone "extremely strict".
Parts of Salalah, home to some 200,000 people, lost their power when the cyclone landed.
Branches and leaves were scattered on the streets. Several underpasses became standing lakes. Some cars were left on the road. Electrical workers began trying to repair lines in the city while police and soldiers patrolled the streets in SUVs. On the outskirts of the city, near Salalah International Airport, once a dry riverbed had become a raging river.
The airport, which has been closed since Thursday, will reopen on Sunday, Oman's Public Civil Aviation Authority said. The port of Salalah – an important gateway for the country and for Qatar in a regional diplomatic quarrel – remained closed, its cranes secured against the beating rain and wind.
Omani forecasters said Salalah and the surrounding area would get at least 7.87 inches of rainfall, about twice the annual decline of the city. It actually got 11 inches almost three times its annual rainfall.
Authorities remained concerned about flash floods in the valleys of the area and possible mudslides of its nearby cloud-shrouded mountains. In nearby Wadi Darbat, the rains of the storm have intensified its famous waterfall.
The police and others continued their rescue efforts as the wind and rain calmed down. Capt. Tarek al-Shanfari, of the Royal Oman Police Department, said there were at least three deaths in the storm, including the death of a 12-year-old girl who was hit by a door in her head.
An Asian worker died in a flooded valley and an Omani national died in a 4×4 when his vehicle was swept away, al-Shanfari said.
On Socotra, authorities transferred over 230 families to the more robust buildings and other areas, including those more inland and in the mountains of the island, Yemeni security officials said.
Flash floods flooded Socotra's streets and cut off electricity and communications lines. Some humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arrived on the island a few hours after the cyclone retreat.
The Yemeni security officials said the rescuers found two bodies on Socotra while more than 30 people were missing. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to inform reporters.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was the focus of a conflict between the United Arab Emirates and the alleged Yemeni government against Shia rebels known as Houthis.
Socotra has a unique ecosystem and is home to plants, snails and reptiles that can not be found anywhere else.
In Oman, Mohammed Omer Baomer warned his neighbors of a way off the road from his home after grabbing his SUV.
"It was an eerie feeling, as if it was the end of the world," he said of the cyclone. You try to watch from the window, and you can not.
But as Mekunu swept over them, the eye of the storm gave a brief breather early Saturday morning, and in a luxury hotel in Salalah, which had already evacuated its guests, the workers sat down early for "Suhoor," a meal Muslims eat ramadan before sunrise during the holy month of fasting They laughed and shared the plates with their flashlights in a darkened ballroom, and the wind of the cyclone blew a muffled roar from behind their clatter.