Cyclone Shaheen: expats and Omanis come together 'like a UN task force' for clean-up

20,000 volunteers turn out to help those who lost homes and businesses in the storm

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As catastrophe turns to recovery, thousands of Omanis and expatriates have joined forces for a huge clean-up operation days after Cyclone Shaheen ripped through the country.

About 20,000 volunteers spent the weekend removing tons of mud, debris, rubble, dead animals, fallen trees and damaged cars from the wadis, Oman TV reported.

Omanis and expats communicated via social media to help those who lost their homes, businesses, personal belongings and livestock. They also distributed food and comforted those who had lost loved ones during the storm, the report said.

The volunteers included Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, British, French, Americans, Kenyans, Tanzanians, Moroccans, Egyptians and many others.

"It is like a UN task force coming together,” Khalil Al Aisry, one of the Omani volunteers, told The National.

Terry Thomson, a Briton based in Muscat, said: “Shovel by shovel, we are all in this together as we work for a common humanitarian goal. There are even students here taking part, different nationalities, taking advantage of the weekend. It is really gratifying to see so many people, from all walks of life, being here helping the victims."

Cyclone Shaheen has killed 14 people across the country. Widespread damage from the storm forced more than 5,000 people into temporary accommodation.

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

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

Some universities are rewarding their students with extra grades if they help with the clean-up.

“My university said we will get five per cent extra grades in community engagement if we come here and help. But of course, I am not here for the grades. I am here to genuinely help people who need my help,” Bayaan Al Subhi, a student at the University of Sohar, told The National.

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

Some of them say the work is perilous as they enter properties weakened by the flooding.

The government said it would pay 1,000 rials ($2,600) to each property owner to help them repair their homes. The general public and private institutions have so far donated nearly $48 million to help storm victims.

Updated: November 01, 2021, 12:29 PM