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Fri 25 May 2018 03:05 PM

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Cyclone Mekunu intensifies as it bears down on Oman

Oman's Directorate General of Meteorology says eye of Mekunu is expected to hit Salalah

Cyclone Mekunu intensifies as it bears down on Oman

Oman said Friday that Cyclone Mekunu, which wreaked havoc in the Yemeni island of Socotra, has intensified into category 2 as it bore down on the south of the sultanate.

"Latest observations show that tropical Cyclone Mekunu has intensified to category 2," with high wind speeds, Oman's Directorate General of Meteorology said on Twitter.

The centre said in its latest warning that the eye of Mekunu was expected to hit Salalah, the main city in Dhofar province, at around 1600 local time (1200 GMT).

The impact on the city and province was expected to last several hours with wind speeds of 170 kilometres (106 miles) per hour.

Heavy rains and strong winds have already been pummelling Dhofar province, with an AFP photographer in Salalah saying the city has been lashed non-stop for several hours.

Authorities have urged residents to stay indoors.

At least 17 people were missing after Mekunu hit Socotra in war-torn Yemen on Thursday, causing severe flooding and material damage.

The government declared the island in the northwest Indian Ocean, part of a UNESCO-protected archipelago for its rich biodiversity, a "disaster" zone.

Saudi troops were deployed to Socotra earlier this month following tensions over an Emirati military presence on the island.

The Yemeni high relief agency met with international humanitarian organisations in Aden late Thursday to discuss the situation, the Saba news agency reported.

They decided to set up 11 relief centres in Socotra to provide shelter for people forced to evacuate their homes.

The meeting also discussed measures to provide aid to residents of three provinces in southeast Yemen expected to be hit by the cyclone.

Across the border in Oman, authorities have placed police and army on alert and closed schools until Monday in preparation for the cyclone.

State-run television said authorities had evacuated hundreds of residents from a small island off Salalah, the town where Oman's Sultan Qaboos was born.

Oman's civil aviation authority announced that Salalah airport would be closed for 24 hours from midnight (2000 GMT Thursday).

In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through Oman, killing at least 49 people and causing damage estimated at $3.9 billion (3.3 billion euros).

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