Reuters: Cyclone Gonu left the coast of Oman and swept out into a major oil shipping route towards Iran on Friday, killing at least 32 people and leaving a trail of destruction that halted oil and gas exports for a fourth day. By Diala Saadeh
DUBAI, June 8 (Reuters) – Cyclone Gonu left the coast of Oman and swept out into a major oil shipping route towards Iran on Friday, killing at least 32 people and leaving a trail of destruction that halted oil and gas exports for a fourth day.
The Omani official news agency said winds from Gonu, that is now classified as a Category One hurricane, were moderate and sea waves were about two metres (six feet) high.
Officials said the hurricane damaged main roads and bridges connecting the eastern provinces with the capital Muscat and caused floods and landslides across all regions.
Omani police said rescue teams, using helicopters, searched for missing people and evacuated residents from valleys near Muscat. The Omani official news agency said at least 32 people had been killed.
In Muscat’s centre streets were turned into turbulent rivers, trees uprooted and power lines severed. Cars were left piled on top of each other, stuck in rubble and mud.
One witness said he had to take his children to the rooftop of his three-storey house to flee the rising water.
Gonu peaked as a maximum-force Category Five hurricane on Tuesday and faded to a Category One hurricane on Wednesday. Apart from the 32 dead, at least 30 people were missing, Omani news agency said.
Three people were killed in southern Iran on Thursday while people within 300 metres (yards) of the coast in Hormozgan province had been evacuated, Iran state television said.
State media said roads and houses in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan had been damaged and many coastal areas were cut off by flooding.
CHECKS ON PIPELINES
Oman started carrying out tests on pipelines in Mina al Fahal, the country’s only terminal for its 650,000 barrels per day crude exports, after a three-day closure due to Cyclone Gonu, a shipping source said earlier.
“They are carrying out tests for pipelines to see if they are in order, to check if they could start operating again,” he said.
Petroleum Development Oman said on Thursday that 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.
The storm had raised fears of a disruption to exports from the Middle East, which pumps over a quarter of the world’s oil, pushing prices to around $71 a barrel on Thursday.
The main liquefied natural gas terminal at Sur, which was badly hit, was not operating either, a shipper said. Sur terminal handles 10 million tonnes per year of such gas.
Sohar refinery and port reopened and these facilities were working as well as before the storm, the company said.
Further north, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) port of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest ship refuelling centres, reopened on Thursday morning after closing on Wednesday.
Oman’s weather centre, which has been keeping records since 1890, says Gonu could be the strongest storm to reach Oman’s coast since 1977 though meteorologists say milder tropical storms are common in the region from mid-May to the end of June.
But whereas the 1977 storm took an inland trajectory toward rural areas, Gonu moved along Oman’s heavily-populated coast, sweeping its main cities, industrial areas and ports.