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. Cyclone Gonu Lashes Gulf Region

A Rare Tropical Cyclone Churns In Arabian Sea
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jun 07 - The formation of tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea is rare, but as Tropical Cyclone Gonu is proving, just because these storms are rare doesn't mean that they can't be powerful. This image of Cyclone Gonu, as it churned in the northern Indian Ocean basin, was captured on June 4, 2007 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite. Oman is to the left of the storm, and Iran and Pakistan are to its north. By June 5, 2007, the intense storm had reached a dangerous Category 4 status, with sustained winds measuring 155 miles per hour, according to the University of Hawaii's Tropical Storm Information Center. Gonu is the strongest storm to hit the Arabian Peninsula since record keeping began more than 60 years ago, according to news reports.
by Laith Abou-Ragheb
Muscat (AFP) Jun 07, 2007
Cyclone Gonu lashed Oman with heavy rains and winds on Wednesday, as thousands of people were evacuated from low-lying areas in the Gulf state and neighbouring Iran for the strongest tropical storm to hit the region in 30 years. Flights were suspended at Oman's Muscat airport but the cyclone has not so far affected shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, where at least a quarter of world oil supplies passes, officials said.

Oil prices had risen on Monday on news of the cyclone but subsided on Tuesday. Oil experts said on Wednesday that any impact from disruption to shipping would be only temporary, provided oil facilities in the region remained intact.

"If shipping is halted through Hormuz, I think there is going to be a panic in world oil markets and prices could shoot to as high as 80 dollars, but of course for a very short period," Kuwaiti oil expert Kamel al-Harami said.

The streets of Muscat were almost deserted save for a few all-terrain vehicles, after thousands of residents were evacuated from eastern coastal areas, but the storm steadily weakened after reaching land.

Cyclone Gonu was initially packing winds of 260 kilometres (160 miles) an hour but they have now dropped to between 120 and 176 kilometres (70 and 105 miles) an hour, Omani weather officials said.

Weather officials said the cyclone was expected to be the strongest to hit the Arabian peninsula since 1977 although OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia said it did not expect it to affect oil-producing regions.

"Maritime activities in the Strait of Hormuz are as usual. We have no indication of any disruption," an Omani transport ministry official told AFP.

Iran also evacuated residents living on the coast or river banks in southern provinces further inland to escape the storm, expected to hit in the coming hours although downpours were already drenching coast areas.

The southern ports of Bandar-e Jask and Chahbahar were set to be the worst affected by rain, possible floods and waves up to five metres (16 feet) high.

In neighbouring Pakistan, authorities told fishermen in the southwest to stay ashore during the next 24 hours. Rough seas have already damaged dozens of fishing boats in the southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said.

In Oman, the army, police and civil defence have all been mobilised and a police officer said about 18,000 people been evacuated across the country.

He said there were no reports of any deaths or injuries, although there was some structural damage. Residents could return home after 24 hours if the force of the cyclone did not increase, he added.

Schools, as well as the public and private sectors, were ordered to shut from Wednesday until Sunday.

In Muscat, a power cut in one hotel forced guests with flashlights into corridors to exchange travel woes as the storm raged outside.

John Watt, a 50-year-old energy consultant from Scotland, said he failed in his attempt to visit an oil facility on Wednesday. "The driving conditions were atrocious. There must have been two to three feet of water on the road," he told AFP.

Markus and Bettina Kollman, visiting from Germany, were stranded with their two children, Alana, 13, and Janik, 10. The family had attempted to drive to Dubai in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates but were turned back at the border. "My daughter is disappointed as she'll miss an appointment to have some henna tattoos. But my son is excited because it he'll probably miss some school days," she said.

The Saudi weather service said on Tuesday it did not expect any direct impact on its oil-producing central and eastern regions.

A spokesman for the UAE's meteorology department said on Tuesday the cyclone would have little impact on the country, also a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Yemen, at the other southern end of the Arabian peninsula, has deployed civil defence teams across coastal areas.

Iran evacuates thousands as cyclone strikes
by Stuart Williams
Tehran (AFP) - Cyclone Gonu, the worst tropical storm to hit the Gulf in decades, made landfall in Iran on Wednesday afternoon, packing winds of 200 kilometres an hour and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, officials said.

The storm hit the east coast of Oman earlier in the day, with winds snapping trees and blowing over street signs, while heavy rains flooded some roads.

There were no reports of casualties in either country.

The heavy rain and wind led to flights being suspended at Muscat airport, but the cyclone has so far not affected shipping in the Strait of Hormuz through which at least a quarter of world oil supplies passes, officials said.

"Maritime activities in the Strait of Hormuz are as usual. We have no indication of any disruption," an Omani transport ministry official told AFP.

By evening, Iran was starting to feel the full brunt of the weather in the southern coastal provinces of Hormorzgan and Sistan Baluchestan, which lie only some 100 kilometres (60 miles) across the Gulf from northern Oman.

Winds were lashing the port of Bandar Abbas, the capital of Homorzgan, state television said.

Zeinol Abedin Ramezani, the head of natural disasters in Sistan Baluchestan. said "all the inhabitants of the regions of Chahbahar and Konarak have been evacuated to a distance of one kilometre from the coastal zone.

"These inhabitants were transferred to the (economic) free zone where they were given food and drinking water."

In Zahedan province, to the north of Sistan Baluchestan, an official said "around 40,000 people have been evacuated to higher areas since 3:00 am (2330 GMT)."

The television said that in Bandar Abbas there had been no casualties but that electricity and phone lines were cut in some parts of the city.

The interior ministry said earlier that "all residents in Sistan Baluchestan and Homorzgan are kindly requested to leave the coastal areas and river banks immediately."

In Pakistan, fishermen in the southwest were told to stay ashore for the next 24 hours. Rough seas have already damaged dozens of fishing boats in the southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said.

In Oman, the streets of Muscat were almost deserted at nightfall, save for a few all-terrain vehicles, after police asked people to stay indoors and thousands of residents had been evacuated.

Television showed rising seawater advancing some 500 metres (yards) inland, flooding coastal roads in the Sohar region 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of Muscat.

The ministry of transport said the ports of Sohar and Qabus in Muscat were closed.

Gonu, whose name in the language of the Maldives means a bag made of palm fronds, initially packed winds of 260 kilometres (160 miles) an hour and was expected to be the strongest to hit the Arabian peninsula since 1977.

A power cut in one Muscat hotel forced guests to huddle in corridors with torches as the storm raged outside.

John Watt, a 50-year-old energy consultant from Scotland, said he tried but failed to visit an oil facility on Wednesday.

"Driving conditions were atrocious. There must have been two to three feet of water on the road," he said.

Markus and Bettina Kollman from Germany were stranded with their two children, Alana, 13, and Janik, 10.

The family had attempted to drive to Dubai in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates but they were turned back at the border.

"My daughter is disappointed as she'll miss an appointment to have some henna tattoos. But my son is excited because it means he'll probably miss some schooldays," Bettina Kollman said.

High waves also washed the east coast of OPEC member the UAE, official media said, but the meteorological department said it expected the cyclone to have a minimal impact.

Oil experts said any impact on world oil prices would be temporary provided facilities in the area stayed intact.

Brent North Sea crude for July delivery added 62 cents to 71.07 dollars per barrel in electronic deals.

New York's main oil futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, gained 39 cents to 66.00 dollars per barrel in floor trading.

OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which lies west of Oman, said it did not expect the storm to affect its oil-producing regions, which lie well to the west of the generally northward moving storm.

Abdullah al-Jomaa, chairman of Saudi oil company Aramco, said in a statement that the "disturbances accompanying Cyclone Gonu will not affect Aramco installations, which have taken all necessary measures to assure continued supplies."

Separately, Saudi King Abdullah offered Oman help in dealing with any problems caused by the storm, the official Spa news agency reported.

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Surge In Hurricane Activity Is Only A Return To Normal
Paris (AFP) Jun 06, 2007
Fresh research into Atlantic hurricanes is offering a dash of good news in the context of global warming -- but bad news for those in the Caribbean and southeastern United States who live in the path of these mighty storms. Investigators believe the greenhouse effect cannot be blamed for a surge in hurricane activity since the mid-1990s.

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