Muscat – When Cyclone Gonu made landfall on June 6, 2007, Oman was unprepared for its severity and intensity. It left the sultanate battered. Gonu is the strongest cyclone to have struck the Arabian Peninsula since 1945 and what ensued was hardship and struggle for many people in Oman when streets became awash with water and littered with rubble.
Sunday’s severe cyclonic storm Shaheen, which too brought with it massive flooding, strong winds and thunder showers, prompted the government to declare a two-day national holiday, and refreshed memories of Cyclone Gonu after 14 years.
Gonu resulted in billions of dollars in damages and the deaths of 50 people in the sultanate.
Shaheen revived painful memories and a few people Muscat Daily spoke with said such memories never fade.
“Soon after the announcement that Shaheen would hit Oman, memories of Gonu came rushing back because I spent three days without water and electricity when it struck in June 2007,” said Amerat resident Amour al Tauqi, who then worked for the government and has since retired.
The fears lingered on his mind. “During Gonu, the main road connecting Amerat to Muscat was battered and we had no option but to sit and wait. We survived with the little we had and getting water was a challenge.
“Gonu struck in the peak of summer, so the heat was unbearable without electricity. There were no tankers to get water. It was like a war zone. But this time, I made sure to be prepared for any eventuality. Thank God nothing happened, just few minor damages,” Tauqi said.
Like him, Shaheen opened old wounds for Salaah Abdullah, too. “I remember the road from Wadi Adai to Amerat broke down. Those memories of Gonu make me sick. I was in Amerat that day with my uncle, and somehow managed a day without water and electricity. Then we decided to drive to Wadi Adai and thereon to Ghubra to seek refuge in my brother’s house. It took eight hours. A journey which normally took 20 minutes took eight hours,” he said.
During Gonu, Oman suffered severe power outages and water supply disruptions as municipality crews and volunteers worked to clean up and repair damages after the cyclone inundated the capital with floodwater and mud.
“Gonu left wide swathes of Muscat under water, with floodwaters racing down mountains in the vicinity of the city, demolishing homes and roads, and sweeping away vehicles,” recalled Fuad al Farsi, who then lived in Qurm.
In the case of Shaheen, too, residents of Qurm were severely affected, if not in the same scale as Gonu. “The whole of Qurm near CCC – now called Al Qurm Complex – was flooded. My family and I perched on the terrace of our building as the water level rose each minute. But we were lucky – an ROP helicopter came to our rescue. Our house was filled with floodwater and mud. We had to change all the furniture after two weeks,” Farsi recalled.
During Gonu, Muscat and Sur were hit by severe water shortages making it intolerable in the summer heat and humidity. Residents scoured supermarkets for bottled water and used water from swimming pools as city authorities struggled to meet urgent demand.