Oman prepares for the worst, as Cyclone Mekunu intensifies

Cyclone tears through Yemeni island Socotra

And at least 11 people were killed in waters near the island when two ships went down in the pounding rain and wind, the official said.

The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Saturday near Salalah, Oman's third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people close to the sultanate's border with war-ravaged Yemen.

Seventeen people are now missing on Socotra Island in the Arabian Sea, where the cyclone has already hit. Fishermen have been advised not to venture into west-central Arabian Sea till May 26.

Capt Tarek al-Shanfari of Royal Oman Police said the 12-year-old girl had been hit in the head by a door torn off by the wind.

Four people on the boat were rescued while three other people were missing when floods swept away their vehicles, the minister said.

Authorities called on humanitarian organisations and the Saudi-led military coalition that is battling Huthi rebels in the country to help, according to state-run news agency Saba. Rageh Bakrit, the governor of al-Mahra province, said on his official Twitter account late Friday that strong winds had blown down houses and taken out communication lines and water services.

Civil defence authorities said they had set up 65 shelter centres in the two affected provinces.

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Mekunu is likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm during next 24 hours and into a severe one in subsequent 24 hours.

The eye of the Cyclone Mekunu is 75 kilometres away from the city of Salalah in Oman.

Tourists rushed to catch the last flights out before Salalah International Airport closed at midnight Thursday for the storm, where sandbags already stacked against some doors. While the rest of the Arabian Peninsula bakes in areas where temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), those in the sleepy port city of Salalah enjoy rainy weather that sees fog and cool air wrap around its lush mountainsides.

Salalah and the surrounding area received almost 11in (278mm) of rain, almost three times its annual amount.

On Socotra, authorities relocated over 230 families to sturdier buildings and other areas, including those more inland and in the island's mountains, Yemeni security officials said.

Socotra has a unique ecosystem and is home to plants, snails and reptiles that can be found nowhere else.

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