Oman has begun to clean up the damage left by Cyclone Shaheen, an operation that could cost the government millions of rials.
Recovery crews and utility workers have started work after the severe storm killed at least 11 people, destroyed homes, damaged infrastructure and forced more than 5,000 people into temporary accommodation.
Most of the damage is in Oman’s Batinah region, in the towns of Al Musannah, Suwaiq, Saham, Khabourah and Sohar, which were hit by 60-knot winds and 12-metre waves.
Towns were turned into “rivers and lakes” when the cyclone raged from Saturday to Monday.
Relief workers, a mix of municipality employees and volunteers, said damage to the Batinah region was extensive and its restoration could take months.
“The clean-up includes removing uprooted trees, fallen street lights, broken telecom masts, vehicles stuck in the wadis, dead animals, rubbles from broken roads and bridges,” Mansoor Al Yahyai, 23, a university graduate volunteering in Khabourah, told The National. “Only then we can start the repair and the replacement of damaged equipment and infrastructure.”
On Monday, Sultan Haitham, the Ruler of Oman, called for a ministerial committee to handle the clean-up and co-ordinate emergency efforts. He said the repair of infrastructure and reconnection of electricity and water should happen as soon as possible.
As municipality workers move in to survey the damage, civil engineers said the cost of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure could reach millions of rials.
“We are talking about damage of roads, bridges, power stations, electrical poles, water pipes, telecommunication facilities, state-owned buildings like ministries and schools and more,” said Khalid Al Harthi, 72, a retired former civil engineer at the Ministry of Defence.
“My estimate will be anything between 30 to 50 million rials [$78m to $130m]. There is widespread damage out there and I am not talking about private properties of ordinary Omanis who suffered the damages of their homes.”
The government did not release figures on the extent of the damage to private properties, but Mr Al Harthi said at least 1,000 houses could be affected.
“If over 5,000 [people] were evacuated, then the fair estimate is around 1,000 houses that have been damaged. I am not even talking about farms and private businesses like shops or even vehicles,” Mr Al Harthi said.
The government-owned Oman Charitable Organisation and Takaful Sohar have pleaded for private and public donations.
Most homeowners in Oman do not have house insurance and many fear that money raised from private funds will not be enough to cover the repairs.
Ibrahim Al Shaibany, 67, a homeowner in Sohar, said: “My house is not insured and I am retired. My roof is leaking and the kitchen is flooded, and that is expensive to repair. I don’t think there will be enough money raised from private donations to cover all the damages of homeowners like me.”
Other homeowners pleaded for government help.
One said: “I really hope the government would help people like us. It is our homes that have been damaged and we cannot afford to repair the damage. We just got back home from the shelter and the repairs are significant and could cost up to 3,000 rials ($7,800).”
A search-and-rescue operation is under way to find people who are still trapped in flooded areas, and hospitals remain on high alert, Omani state television reported.
All schools and universities have been closed for the rest of the week to allow water on the streets to drain. The Ministry of Labour has asked employers not to ask people to return to work if they live in flooded areas.
Committee set up
On Tuesday, Sultan Haitham called on his Cabinet to form a committee to assess the extent of the damage.
The committee will look at the private properties affected by the storms to support homeowners and private businesses. It will be led by the minister of finance, Oman TV reported.
“It was too early to reveal more information until the assessment have been completed,” a spokesman for the Cabinet of Ministers said.