Cyclone Mekunu to be ‘extremely severe’ on landfall in Oman

Heavy rain and strong winds caused damage in Hadibu as Cyclone Mekunu pounded the Yemeni island of Socotra, Thursday, May 24, 2018. At least 17 people were reported missing. The powerful storm remained on path to strike Oman this weekend. (AP Photo/Abdullah Morgan)

SALALAH, Oman (AP) — Cyclone Mekunu will be “extremely severe” when it crashes into the Arabian Peninsula this weekend after earlier thrashing the Yemeni island of Socotra, meteorologists warned today.

At least 17 people were missing from Socotra, with a Yemeni official saying they were likely dead.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Saturday near Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people near the sultanate’s border with war-ravaged Yemen.

Conditions quickly deteriorated in Salalah after sunrise today, with winds and rain beginning to pick up. Strong waves smashed into empty tourist beaches. Many holidaymakers fled the storm Thursday night before Salalah International Airport closed. The Port of Salalah — a key gateway for the country — also closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain.

Streets quickly emptied across the city. Standing water covered some roads and caused at least one car to hydroplane and flip over. A sizable police presence fanned out, many in Royal Oman Police SUVs with chicken wire over the windows. As torrential rains poured down, local authorities opened up schools to shelter those whose homes are at risk. About 600 people, mostly laborers, huddled at the West Salalah School, some sleeping on mattresses on the floors of classrooms, where math and English lesson posters hung on the walls.

India’s Meteorological Department said the storm in the Arabian Sea was packing maximum sustained winds of 99-106 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 112 mph.