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Wed 6 Jun 2007 02:00 PM

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Fujairah and Sharjah battered by Gonu

UAE emergency forces set to deal with possible crisis situations; streets in Kalba, Sharjah are flooded.

The UAE has set up a task force on border areas with the Sultanate of Oman as the receding storm reaches the emirate of Fujairah.

In Kalba, which is in the emirate of Sharjah but borders Fujairah, said that some streets are completely flooded. Police have closed off roads and there are ambulances at the scene although there are, as yet, no reports of injuries.

"The police are trying to evacuate people. Four streets are completely submerged. What is strange is that not a single tree is moving: there's no wind at all," said an photographer at the scene.

Field committees have been set up by Dubai Crisis Management Team on border areas with the sultanate.

Current satellite images captured every 15 minutes show that the cyclone is advancing at a weakened pace - winds have waned to 100-120kmh over the last few hours as compared to 260kmh yesterday - towards the north western coast of Oman and the UAE's eastern coast.

The storm has been downgraded to a Category One cyclone according to the US military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

However the UAE is still fronting efforts to overcome the negative impact of the cyclone today.

According to a WAM report, UAE Civil Defence forces were put on alert on Tuesday to deal with any possible damage and emergencies that may be inflicted by Gonu in case it hits UAE coasts.

A survey team inspecting Fujairah coastal areas is keeping the crisis management team updated on the cyclone's development, said Brigadier Dr. Jamal Al Marri, acting chief of Dubai Police and deputy chief of Dubai Crisis Management Team.

Mahmoud Hamad from the Dubai Civil Defence said police patrols and rescue boats have been specifically stationed along the coast of Fujairah to monitor weather-related concerns and prevent the public from engaging in marine activities.

The task force - comprising top health and civil defence officials - closely monitors the cyclone's movement and is set to take measures to meet crisis situations should they arise.

A spokesperson for the Dubai Meteorological Office said the storm will not directly affect most parts of the UAE, except for Fujairah, which is nearest to the Gulf of Oman.

"We're expecting Fujairah to experience strong winds and high tides, which can rise to as high as 10 feet by mid-morning today," the spokesperson said.

According to the Meteorology department, "[the cyclone] will likely reach Fujairah by Wednesday afternoon with wind speeds of approximately 50 knots."

Minister of Health Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qutami said the state of emergency at hospitals in Fujairah and the Eastern Region has been raised 25% to deal with any emergencies.

Coastal areas of Fujairah and the eastern region experienced an unusual surge in wave activities on Tuesday evening, pushing waves to as high as seven meters from two meters, and causing sea water to spill onto lowlands.

"We expect Cyclone Gonu to hit the Abu Dhabi coast on Thursday afternoon and remain for three days," Mohammed Ikram Quraishi, senior meteorologist at UAE Meteorology Department, was quoted as saying in Khaleej Times.

"The intensity of the cyclone will be grave on Friday along the entire UAE coastline. This will bring heavy rains, thunder showers, stormy winds and heavy tides in the coastal areas of the region."