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Friday, June 4, 2010

Phet batters Oman; heads towards Pakistan

KARACHI: Cyclone Phet was heading towards Pakistan after hitting the coast of Oman.

The cyclone made landfall at the north-east tip of Oman's coast last night and had weakened from "very severe" to "severe," the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said.

Phet has weakened as it churned along coastal Oman Friday, dumping up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rain on the region. Phet, once a powerful Category 4 storm, has been downgraded to Category 1 with winds of about 140 km/hr (86 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Yet Phet brought massive flooding to Muscat and whipped the capital with winds gusting above 200 km/hr (125 mph) at the height of the storm.

The storm is forecast to reenter the Arabian Sea late Friday or early Saturday before making a projected landfall near Karachi on Sunday.

"This Severe Tropical Cyclone is expected to approach Pakistan coastal areas on Saturday evening and make landfall on Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 100 to 120 kilometers per hour and an associated storm surge of 13 to 19 feet (4 to 5.8 metres)," the department warned.

According to the PMD, the storm is to lash Pakistan's southern and south-western coastal areas with "widespread rainfall accompanied by gusty winds" that may cause flash floods in several areas including the country's commercial capital Karachi.

Karachi authorities said they were preparing for the worst case. City administrator Fazalur Rehman said that 22 relief camps and more than 40 emergency centres had been set up.

"These emergency centres are equipped with boats, lifeguards, ambulances, pumps, clean water and medicines," Rehman said.

More than 10,000 people have been evacuated from the coastal areas of the neighboring Thatta district and tens of thousands were moved to safer areas in the south-western province of Baluchistan.

The storm caused landslides and floods in the eastern part of Oman but there were no casualties, the Oman news agency reported.

Cyclone Phet might also strike the Indian state of Gujrat, where 12,000 people have been evacuated from coastal areas.

However, Indian officials said the storm might weaken after hitting Pakistan and give India a miss.

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