Dubai: A powerful cyclone skirted the coast of Oman on 5 June 2007, disrupting oil and gas exports and pushing oil above $70, but the storm appeared to be weakening and moving north through a major shipping channel towards Iran.
Tropical Cyclone Gonu, which earlier reached the level of a maximum-force category five hurricane, was the strongest to reach Oman’s coast since 1977, the Omani weather service told Reuters, with strong winds and heavy rains pummelling the coast and forcing thousands from their homes.
Omanis look at high waves splashing on the rocks as a cyclone approaches Muscat, 05 June 2007
But the US military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said the storm had weakened to maximum sustained winds of 105 miles (169 km) per hour, making it a category two hurricane. The centre of the storm was now expected to hit land in southeastern Iran, possibly disrupting shipping through the Gulf, a major oil export route.
The storm had been expected to sweep north along the coast of Oman, damaging energy facilities and property.
Abdallah al-Harthi, spokesman for Oman’s disaster relief body, said there had been no fatalities or major damage, but that the worst was still to come.
“We are still in pre-storm conditions ... the worst of the storm is expected to pass in the early morning in some areas,” he said.
The Sur export terminal, which handles 10 million tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas exports, would be closed for at least 48 hours, a shipper said. Sultan Qaboos port, which handles vehicles and containers, was also closed.
The Mina al Fahal oil terminal, the only outlet for Oman’s 6,50,000 barrels per day of crude oil production, closed during the day as storms hit the area.
Oil official Rashid al-Barwani said it had since reopened and delays would be short-lived as the storm appeared to be weakening, but shippers said the conditions were not suitable for loading and there was no activity at the terminal.
Oman suspended production at the Mukhaizna oil field, with an estimated output of about 10,000 bpd, but it may resume on 6 June, Nasser bin Khamis al Jashmi, undersecretary at the oil ministry, told state television.
Ziad Karim al-Haremi, chief executive of the Oman Aviation Services, Oman Air’s parent, said it would move its planes outside the country or to safer areas in the southwest.
“We think it would be safer not to have our aircraft in the sultanate,” he told the state television.
Oil has risen above $70 per barrel since 4 June due to the storm in the Gulf, source of about 20% of the world’s oil supply.
Oman’s position at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman made it particularly vulnerable, but southern Iran is also exposed.
The Weather Channel (www.weatherchannel.com) said Gonu was continuing to move towards the Gulf of Oman, packing winds of 145 mph but was forecast to stay just off Oman, then approach southeastern Iran on 6 June with winds around 105 mph.
To the more sheltered west of Oman, the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, said its main oil region was safe.