Oman's Sultan Haitham announces Cyclone Shaheen emergency fund

Providing basic necessities for those most in need is Gulf state's 'first priority'

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Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq announced on Monday the formation of an emergency committee to support recovery efforts from Cyclone Shaheen, which ripped through the country last week.

The storm killed 12 people in Oman and two fishermen in Iran.

Shaheen made landfall on Sunday with winds reaching up to 150kph. The storm quickly lost power and was downgraded but still caused flooding and damage.

“We have ordered the establishment of a national emergency fund in order to deal with the aftermath of the tropical situation and to expedite the mitigation of its effects, and to alleviate the problems of citizens affected by it and what may happen in the future from such cases or other natural disasters," Sultan Haitham said in televised comments on Monday.

"We will stress that restoring public life to its normal state and providing the basic necessities of life for those affected is a first priority for us at this stage."

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.

Sultan Haitham also said the cyclone united the people of Oman to work as one nation and urged government departments to treat the restoration work with urgency.

“Everyone in the country did their part to help clean up and they are still out there doing their best to help those who have suffered most. We also urged all government offices to work as one unit for speedy recovery and provide relief to all as soon as possible,” he said.

About 20,000 volunteers, both Omanis and expatriates, spent the weekend removing tons of mud, debris, rubble, dead animals, fallen trees and damaged cars from the wadis in what they say it was like ‘a UN task force’ in a show of national solidarity.

Sultan Haitham came to power after the death of his cousin and long-time ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said in January 2020. He has implemented a wide range of reforms, including creating the crown prince position and assigning it to his son, Dhi Yazan bin Haitham.

The changes, made in January 2021, included a new basic law, superseding the 1996 legislation that effectively codified Oman's constitution.

Sultan Haitham thanked emergency services for their role in conducting evacuations and rescues.

"The Royal Oman Police, the security services, all citizens and residents, the shelter and support services sector, private sector companies, NGOs, and volunteer teams were all examples of true patriotism," he said.

Omani citizens welcomed the Sultan's speech, saying they need the government's support to go back to their normal lives.

“The speech is welcomed and I feel a huge relief that the Sultan himself made a promise to put our lives back to normal,” Suleiman Al Hattali, a man who had his house damaged in Khaburah, told The National.

Other Omanis who lost their businesses also welcomed the speech.

“A very kind gesture from the Sultan. I lost my shop and my food storage. Everything went in the flood and down to the wadi here in Khaburah. I am now relieved that we are getting the right support from the Sultan himself,” Abdullah Al Asfoor, a businessman from Saham, told The National.

Farmer Said Al Rushaidi, who lost his crops in Sohar, said the support from the Sultan was “timely.”

“The support is timely and comes at the time when I need money to reconstruct my farm. Almost everything does not work, from pumps, to the water wells to farming machineries, not to mention the crops that were ruined,” Mr Rushaidi said.

Updated: November 01, 2021, 12:29 PM