Flash floods strike Oman as temperatures sink below zero

Residents were left stranded as heavy rain and snow have blocked roads

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Temperatures in some parts of Oman dropped to below zero on Wednesday as heavy rain caused flooding across the Sultanate and residents are braced themselves for a further downpour.

The Oman Meteorological office said temperatures had dropped to -2°C degrees on Wednesday in Jabal Shams, the tallest peak in the Arabian Peninsula, which is located in the north-eastern region of Oman. The temperature in the same area last year hovered around 5°C.

Residents living near the 3,000 metre peak said heavy rain and snow have blocked roads and left most of them stranded in their homes.

“We will run out of food if the bad weather continues. The lower areas of the town are flooded with rainwater and higher areas are full of snow. We will have to wait and see what happens in the next 24 hours,” Firas Al-Ruqaishi, 42, a farmer at Jabal Shams, told The National over the phone.

The Met office said more rain is expected over the next two days across the country. In Muscat, strong winds and rainfall caused chaos for many residents and some abandoned their houses in low-lying areas of the capital.

“I could not go to work this morning because the roads are flooded. It is too dangerous to be out there. Two cars have collided with each other this morning right in front of my gate,” 29-year old IT engineer Hamed Al Ismaili, a resident of Seeb, north of Muscat, said.

Some residents in Al Ansab, a low lying town which often sees flooding during rainy periods, say that they were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday night.

“It was too risky to sleep in the house. Our front and back yards were full of water. I had to move my family out of the house and stay with my cousin in another town,” Khalid Al Esri, a 67-year old retired civil servant, said.

The government warned motorists not to drive unless it was necessary. But the main concern was for residents living in the wadi areas. State television reported scores of cars were swept away, and damages caused to property. No deaths were reported but hospitals in Muscat treated over 200 people for various injuries state television said.

Among the casualties were construction labourers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, according to residents living near buildings under construction.

“Labourers are exposed to bad weather because they live in wooden huts with little protection. I helped two of them and put them in my car and drove them to the hospital emergency unit. One of them had slipped and sustained a broken wrist,” said Ahmed Al Shehi, 22,  a university student living in Al Khuwair, in central Muscat.

Harish Chowdhary, supervisor of Al Jabal Construction Company in Muscat said over 50 workers had to be evacuated when a strong current washed away their temporary accommodation from their building site.

“The ground their wooden accommodation was standing on gave way and a strong water current swept it two hundred metres away. It is that bad,” Mr Chowdhary said.