The lengthy spell of wet weather currently gripping Oman seemed to be over and residents were just trying to go back to their normal lives, but heavy downpour in some parts of the country came unexpectedly and claimed a total of 11 lives on Thursday in the worst single day death toll of the present adverse weather situation.
Of the 11 fatalities reported by the Royal Oman Police, nine were Omanis who drowned in flooded wadis, while the remaining were expatriates who were electrocuted when they came into contact with live electrical infrastructure.
Thursday’s casualties take the overall death toll to 21 since the onset of the bad weather, attributable to a ridge of low pressure prevailing over the Arabian Gulf, on April 23.
The spike in drowning deaths came as the Sultanate began an extended three-day weekend, the result of the country’s historic switch from the Thursday/Friday weekend to the Friday/Saturday system embraced by much of the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The long holiday was an opportunity for thousands of people to take advantage of what appeared to be a lull in the wet weather to enjoy the outdoors for the first time in a week, after being confined to their homes by the incessant rains. In the rugged countryside, wadis are a major draw for families and individuals who typically camp out by water pools, lured by sunny conditions. Often, they are unaware that a downpour upstream of where they are can turn these idyllic wadis into raging rivers in a flash.
With the weather situation suddenly taking a turn for the worse, the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA) late on Thursday issued an appeal by text message urging people “who are in wadis to leave these wadis as soon as possible due to expected heavy rains”. That advisory came too late for nine Omanis who were swept away in floodwaters at various locations across the northern half of the country.
The dead included a one-and-a-half year old infant who drowned in a falaj (irrigation stream) in Samayil district, while a 10-year-old boy was washed away in floodwaters of Wadi Andam in Sharqiya North Governorate.
Meanwhile, a team of high-ranking government officials visited rain-affected areas of the country for a first-hand look assessment of the relief services being provided to citizens displaced from their homes. The team, led by Ahmad Bin Abdullah Al Shuhi, Minister of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, toured the Shinas district of North Al Batinah Governorate, an area affected by intense rains on Wednesday. They also visited the Humairaa area of Shinas where around 50 families had to be evacuated to safety after their homes were inundated by floodwater.
The Directorate General of Meteorology and Air Navigation, meanwhile, has forecast more thundershowers on Friday and Saturday, with the mountainous Hajar region of the country as well as the coastal areas adjoining the Sea of Oman expected to be particularly affected.