SALALAH, Oman (AFP) – Cyclone Mekunu was downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday, a day after lashing the southern coast of Oman and killing at least two people, authorities said.
The storm had intensified to a category two cyclone as it hit Oman’s Dhofar and Al-Wusta provinces on the Arabian Sea on Friday, battering the coast with torrential rains, strong winds and massive waves.
The national civil defence committee said on Saturday the cyclone had subsided to a tropical storm but was still pummelling the country with heavy rain and winds at some 90 kilometres (56 miles) an hour.
Oman’s directorate general of meteorology said the cyclone had gone inland and was heading northwest into Saudi Arabia, but that heavy rains would likely continue into Sunday.
Oman police reported that a man died after floods swept him away with his car near Salalah, a day after a 12-year old girl died when a gust of wind smashed her into a wall.
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 Yemen’s Socotra island on Thursday, causing heavy damage, Yemen’s fisheries minister Fahad Kafin said.
Rescue teams on Friday found alive four Indian sailors who had been declared missing. The search is ongoing for eight Indian sailors who went missing when the cyclone hit Socotra’s port.
In Salalah, rains 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 at up to 170 kilometres (105 miles), he added.
Mekunu is now heading towards southern Saudi Arabia and is expected to hit parts of the Empty Quarter, one of the world’s most arid deserts, late Saturday.