Oman flash floods kill four and leave 200 homeless

Civil defence officers launched an emergency operation to evacuate people living on the edge of the wadis, some of them labourers from construction sites.

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MUSCAT // Four people were killed and more than 200 left homeless on Tuesday after flash floods triggered by torrential rain washed away buildings across Oman on Tuesday.

The worst affected area was the Batnah region in the north where most of the properties were destroyed by swollen wadis.

Civil defence officers launched an emergency operation to evacuate people living on the edge of the wadis, some of them labourers from construction sites. The rescue teams used inflatable boats to reach people stranded in flooded areas.

"The latest count is that four died, two are foreign labourers and two are Omanis," a civil defence officer told The National. "Over 200 people, including construction workers, have their homes destroyed."

He said the labourers died in Suwaiq when they were swept by the strong water currents, while the Omanis were killed in the nearby town of Musanah after their car skidded and overturned.

About 70 people had been taken to hospitals and those who lost their homes were being accommodated in temporary shelters, he added.

Residents living near the flooded areas said they heard the helicopters in early in the morning as civil defence officers air-lifted people trapped in the water.

“There were screams everywhere as these people tried to attract attention. Some of them were standing on top of their roofs, some on top of their cars. Any high spot just to be out of the water,” said Ahmed Al Zaabi, a resident in Barka, in the Batnah region.

The civil defence also said the health department was distributing medicine to prevent as outbreak of waterborne diseases. The unstable weather also ravaged parts of the remote areas in the Wahiba Sands, a stretch of desert popular with tourists. Tour guides were warned to stop taking visitors to the region this week.

Weather forecasters predicted that the heavy downpours would continue until Sunday.

The state meteorological office recorded more rainfall in the last two days than the average rainfall in the month of January.

Oman regularly experiences flash floods at this time of the year when wadis rapidly fill with water during heavy rain to devastating effect.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae