MUSCAT, (Reuters) – Tropical Cyclone Phet roared toward the coast of Oman on Thursday and was expected to make landfall on Friday before heading toward the oil-exporting Gulf Arab state’s LNG facilities.
But Phet, a Category 4 storm with winds of over 130 miles (210 km) per hour, was forecast to weaken before hitting Oman’s southeast coast, according to storm risk forecasts shown on website www.tropicalstormrisk.com.
Oman state television said the government had ordered police and the air force to evacuate people from areas of eastern Oman, where waves were 8 metres (26 feet) high.
National carrier Oman Air said it had cancelled two flights so that aircraft could evacuate people from Masirah island off the east coast.
Phet will hit the coast as a weaker Category 1 storm and move inland as a tropical storm before re-emerging over the north Indian Ocean and barrelling on toward Pakistan, Tropical Storm Risk said.
The cyclone will steer east of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, used by ships carrying 17 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, 40 percent of all seaborne oil, and may disrupt shipping moving from the Gulf toward the Indian Ocean.
Phet initially had been forecast to become a Category 5 storm, the most powerful category with winds of over 156 mph.
Most Omani oil exports move from Mina al-Fahal port near the capital Muscat. Operations at Oman LNG, the liquefied natural gas export facility, were so far unaffected as of late on Wednesday, Nasser al-Kindy, head of Oman LNG corporate communications, told Reuters.
The three LNG production facilities, known as trains, are in Sur in the east, close to the path of the storm. They produce about 8 million tonnes per year of LNG.
The east is also home to Oman’s protected green back turtle. A previous cyclone in 2007 killed at least 54 people in Oman and Iran.