DUBAI, (Reuters) – Cyclone Gonu left Oman and Iran, where it killed at least 35 people in both countries and caused devastation, and swept into the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route on Friday, though its power was waning.
Iranian state television said the hurricane left Iran in the afternoon and was heading towards Hormuz, through which a fifth of world oil supplies pass.
An Iranian official said the hurricane had weakened and its “impact will be completely gone”, he told the official ISNA news agency.
The Omani news agency ONA said at least 32 people had been killed and 30 were missing. Three people were reported killed in Iran on Thursday and nine were missing.
The Omani official news agency said winds from Gonu, now downgraded to a Category One hurricane, were moderate and sea waves were about two metres (six feet) high.
Officials said the hurricane damaged main roads and bridges connecting the eastern provinces with the capital Muscat and caused floods and landslides across all regions.
In Muscat’s centre, streets were turned into turbulent rivers, trees uprooted and power lines cut. Cars were left piled on top of each other, stuck in rubble and mud.
Omani police said rescue teams, using helicopters, searched for missing people and evacuated residents from valleys near Muscat. The Omani official news agency said at least 32 people had been killed.
One witness said he had to take his children to the rooftop of his three-storey house in Muscat to flee the rising water.
In Iran, people within 300 metres (yards) of the coast in Hormozgan province had been evacuated, and at least 300 villages were completely cut off, Iran state television said.
State media said roads and houses in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan had been damaged and many coastal areas were cut off by flooding.
Further north to Oman’s east coast, the United Arab Emirates’ port of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest ship refuelling centres, said 11 sailors were rescued after their boat sank in regional Omani waters on Wednesday.
Port Director Moussa Murad said there were 10 sailors missing from the same boat. The rescued sailors were nine Indians, a Sudanese and one Eritrean.
The port reopened on Thursday after it closed on Wednesday.
Oman’s weather centre, which has been keeping records since 1890, says Gonu could be the strongest storm to reach Oman’s coast since 1977.
Whereas the 1977 storm took an inland trajectory toward rural areas, Gonu moved along Oman’s heavily-populated coast, sweeping its main cities, industrial areas and ports.
The country’s main airport, Al Seeb, reopened after three days of closure, and Omani airlines resumed flights to Dubai.
Gonu peaked as a maximum-force Category Five hurricane on Tuesday and faded to a Category One hurricane on Wednesday. Apart from the 32 dead, at least 30 people were missing, Omani news agency said.
Oman’s only 650,000 barrel per day oil terminal Minal al Fahal resumed operations after a three-day closure. Oman carried out tests on pipelines in the terminal before it resumed operations.
Petroleum Development Oman said on Thursday that operations and facilities had escaped damage.
PDO, a majority state-owned firm, produces most of Oman’s crude. PDO expects its output to decline by around 20,000 bpd this year to between 560,000 and 570,000.
The storm had raised fears of a disruption to exports from the Middle East, which pumps over a quarter of the world’s oil, pushing prices to around $71 a barrel on Thursday.
The main liquefied natural gas terminal at Sur, which was badly hit, was not operating either, a shipper said. Sur terminal handles 10 million tonnes per year of such gas.
Sohar refinery and port reopened and these facilities were working as well as before the storm, the company said.