Cyclone Shaheen rescue workers in Oman face ‘daring and dangerous challenge'

Some families remain trapped by floodwaters as relief workers clear debris

Rescue workers and volunteers entered buildings weakened by high winds and water on Thursday, as the clean-up operation continued for a third day after cyclone Shaheen swept over Oman.

Workers used lorries, shovels and dredging machines to clear the debris in the towns of Al Khaburah and Al Suwaiq – both hit hard by the storm, which made landfall on Monday.

The work, they said, was perilous.

“It is a very dangerous and daring challenge in some places,” said Ahmed Al Jabri, a municipal worker in Al Khaburah.

“I can say that thick mud is hiding holes in the roads as deep as 10 metres. In some places, these unseen holes are death traps. I would have sunk in two of them if my colleagues did not get hold of my shirt.”

Ravi Gosh, a rescue worker clearing the rubble in Saham in Al Batinah governorate, described how a wall had toppled over and landed just feet away from another rescue worker driving an excavator.

“I could not see it coming down because my lorry was behind. The force of the crushing wall shook the vehicle and unseated me. I fell off the seat and sprained my hand,” he told The National.

As the clean-up effort continued, rescue teams uncovered another body, taking the total number of deaths caused by the cyclone to 14.

Most of the damage is in Oman’s Al Batinah region, in the towns of Al Musannah, Suwaiq, Saham, Khabourah and Sohar, which were hit by winds of 110 kilometres an hour and 12-metre high waves.

Widespread damage from the storm forced more than 5,000 people into temporary accommodation.

On Thursday the government announced it was moving people whose homes had been destroyed by the storm to fully furnished accommodations until their properties could be restored, Oman News Agency reported.

The agency said the government would pay 1,000 rials ($2,500) to each property owner to help them repair their homes.

State-run Petroleum Development Oman and the country's biggest financial institution Bank Muscat, donated a combined 11 million rials ($28.6 million), statements from the two companies said on Thursday.

Some $47.71 million has now been donated to help the victims of the storm.

Relief workers said they had also received donations in the form of food and blankets from Omanis.

“Ordinary citizens have donated bags of food – from rice, flour, and chicken to blankets. A local pharmacy even donated medicines. We go around with trucks and stop at every house that was hit by the storm and drop the supplies to them,” said Ghaith Al Ghaithi, a volunteer working in Sohar.

With floodwaters still high, some people in Al Batinah area remained trapped in their houses.

“We are working until late in the evening to remove water, stones and mud from the front yards of many houses so people can leave their homes,” Suhail Al Azri, another relief volunteer, told The National.

“Local construction companies in the towns are helping out with their equipment to pump out water and drag out persistent mud.”

In Saham, Saif Al Ruzaiqi described how his home became a prison as the waters rose.

“My family and I have not been out of the house since the storm started,” he said.

“We have been in the prison of our home since Sunday evening. We cannot even go out to buy food because our house is surrounded by water everywhere. The police drop food and water by helicopter on our roof to keep us going.”

Updated: October 8th 2021, 7:34 AM