Mayhem in Muscat

Friends of mine in Oman have sent an account of the devastation caused last week by tropical cyclone Gonu.

“As some of you may have heard, depending on your news coverage, Oman was hit
by tropical cyclone Gonu last Wednesday. The eye of the storm was out at
sea, but the edge of it hit landfall at Sur and all the way up the coast to
Muscat. It is fair to say, it has caused terrific damage to this beautiful
We were warned of the storm, and made preparations and the actual cyclone
was actually less in strength than predicted, but I don’t think any of us
were prepared for the effects.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning the rain started and persisted all
day. We had waterfalls down the stairs as usual and through the air
conditioners all night. In the afternoon the wind blew up and it was soon
dangerous to go outside with the breaking branches, falling trees, lampposts
and telegraph poles. As night fell, like many other places, we lost power,
but from our upstairs windows we could see that the water in the wadi near
our house was rising and nearly up to the road. It broke through not long
after and started flowing between the flats one row in from our street. We
moved precious stuff higher up in the house and filled bags with compost and
rubbish to ‘sandbag’ the gates. Next we saw the water flowing into our
street and start the relentless climb up towards our gate. Stuff came
floating past. It was very eerie and disconcerting. We had no idea how
long it would go on for. Then a miracle happened. It started receding and
by the time we decided it was safe to go to bed, you could just see the
white lines in the road again.
We were among the lucky ones. That night many people lost their homes,
their livelihoods, their cars and, worst of all, their lives. The death
toll has not been published. Official figures here said 25 and 45 missing,
but those who work in hospitals say it must be far higher than that. Ghubra
was worst hit in the Muscat area. Colleagues of mine who lived there had to
escape to the first floor as a huge wave engulfed the whole area, stove in
their doors and flooded their houses to chest level. Although everyone has
rallied round, there has been and still is the daunting task of trying to
get the mud off what can be salvaged, mud that is contaminated with
everything that the water carried with it. And all of that without a water
supply in many cases.
One week from that day, the clean-up operations are still hardly making an
impact. Many parts of the city now have power again. We were only off for
20 hours, but some parts, 4 or 5 days and some are still out. We got a tank
of water for the first time last night. Until then, we were relying on
filling cans and buckets from the army tankers that have been coming round.
I can tell you, collecting water from A.C.s to flush toilets really does
make you realise how environmentally unfriendly toilets are! The outlying
villages and small towns south of here are still in a deplorable state and
emergency supplies are being sent out to them.
For those of you who know and love Muscat, you would be devastated to see it
now. Qurm Heights highway bridge was destroyed as much of the corniche near
the Crown Plaza (Starbucks is now an island!) and McDonalds at CCC was
underwater to its roof. BHS and all the shops around there are boarded up
following looting and surrounded today by piles of rotting rubbish and heaps
of mud. There is still water in the some of the wadis and houses near the
start of the beach highway in Azaibah are still in the middle of a lake.
There is a swamp near the airport. Everywhere there are the wrecks of cars
washed away and now abandoned as insurance does not cover flood damage.
Roads everywhere are covered in ridged, baked mud as temperatures have shot
back up with a vengeance to 40 to 45. It is a cruel fate given the teams of
people trying to clear up in the heat and the fact that everything is baking
solid. Roads away from the main highway are impassable in places and there
are large holes at the edges. Driving at night is hazardous given the
damage, the huge clouds of dust and patchy street lighting. The corniche
near us was destroyed in places and looks as if a large sea monster has been
taking bites out of it.
Although Al Fair in MQ looked almost normal yesterday, supermarkets near us
are still out of action: Markaz Al Bahja is closed and all the little
supermarkets on our slip road. People have lost so much.
Needless to say, school was closed all week, but they managed to get it
functional to have students and staff in yesterday for a final farewell. We
should have broken up today but… It was the sort of normality everyone
needed and was well worth doing.
Tomorrow the boys fly back to UK. We decided it was better for them given
the lack of water and the fact that the usual sorts of things we do are not
all possible at the moment. They have had to pack up their rooms though as
they will not return to this house. We will move in the next week or so.
So, all in all, it has been a strange week. We can only really say, “Thank
God!” as we came off comparatively lightly.
If you want to see some of the pictures people took and are taking, go to
YouTube and Facebook and type in Gonu.
Signing off from dry, dusty, dirty, devastated Muscat.”


  • Sue Hutton

    Hi Roger. I was very interested to read this. Does it mean that things are not so hunky dory as the authorities would like to make out? Must be. With all that devastation, and an estimate of $3.9 billion to repair, things can’t be ‘normal’. Yet I gather that His Majesty ordered schools to start the annual exams today! I shall be interested to read more. Sue

  • Gavin

    Hi Roger
    we took a drive out on the road to quriyat at the weekend, but the duel carriageway has been reduced to a two lane track. It looked like an earthquake zone with great chunks of the road at all angles.
    It makes you wonder what the real death toll is.
    On the news at the moment we hear up to the minute info on the floods in the UK, its such a contrast to the lack of news from here.