Sunday, June 6, 2010

After Cyclone Phet - the aftermath, the clean up, and the learnings. Oh, and Essa rants about Israel (shock)

Cyclone Phet
In the end, at least as far as Muscat is concerned, Cyclone Phet was nowhere near as nasty as Gonu, neither in duration, wind speed, rain nor impact. For the town of Sur it was probably worse, as Sur was directly under the eye of the storm as it grazed the eastern most tip of Oman. Sur had a record of over 40cm of water recorded. The town was mostly underwater by Friday pm.

And pity the unfortunate villages of Quriat and Tiwi, hit hard by both Gonu and now by Phet.

The latest official number of deaths due to Cyclone Phet was 24, as of this morning's Times of Oman. The low death toll was helped by the cyclone pretty much missing the more densely populated Batinah coast (of which Muscat is the south-eastern part); the advanced warning being taken more seriously by offials and populace alike; and learnings from Gonu. The official evacuation of Masirah Island and the Eastern Coast saved a lot of lives.

Official deaths from Gonu were just 49, but this number was an early one, never officially updated, and reliable unofficial numbers of Gonu deaths range from at least 500 to over 1500. So, it does seem on this score Phet was a lot better than Gonu.

This time most of the deaths were due to local people who were drowned in Wadis (either unknowingly there or stupidly going to watch the floods). I guess many locals surprisingly don't know what a flash flood is. Perhaps this is a side effect of urbanisation. A few more were killed attempting to drive cars across flowing wadis, in the mistaken belief that a Toyota 4x4 (or even Echo) is the hydrodynamic equal of an amphibious 50 tonne tank.

Photo: A Russian T90 can cross standing water. Note the many features that are unlike a Toyota Echo.

A few other unfortunate people got electricuted, probably caused by the useless standards of most Omani houses' electrical systems, and the fact that windows and roofs here are designed or at least 'engineered' (and I use the term loosely) to be ... er, sand proof, rather than water tight.

Oil & Gas
Even Gonu had little impact on oil production, but the Phet effect was even less. My sources in PDO, and official statements. confirm oil production was unaffected. There was a pause of a couple of days of oil export, from crude tankers being able to load because of the 4m swells, but crude oil exports resumed this afternoon as normal. There was no real damage to any key oil infrastructure. Petroleum Development Oman had learned a lot from Gonu and was apparently well prepared.

The 3 big LNG trains at Sur were shut down just in time. I don't know the extent of the damage, but as long as nothing big happened, there will be no impact on LNG export volumes to Korea either. The 3 trains (2 Oman LNG, 1 Khalhat LNG) have 20%++ excess capacity (their capacity is constrained by available gas supply provided by the Government) and as a result will be able to catch up for any shut down quite quickly.

Gas supply to the coast and power generation was also not impacted.

People who watch Oman TV and read Arabic got a few days notice and almost constant updates (including video footage) once the cyclone started to impact Oman. During Gonu the Government seemed to think that not telling anybody anything would somehow ... I don't know, make it all go away or something? This time officials seemed willing to accept that mother nature was bending us over the table.

But a LOT of the expat community knew almost nothing about the coming cyclone until Wednesday or even Thursday. This state of affairs needs correcting fast Ministry of Information. At least (the now 2 one State, one private) English radio stations were giving regular updates (if pretty bland). But anything in Hindi, Urdu and Tagalog - niet.

The Meterological Office could do to find someone with actual fluent English to go on radio. Official English TV news every day at 8:30pm may be OK normally, but in a crisis this needs changing to a minute or two hourly. English subtitles would help in general.

That the hit counter here at Muscat Confidential went through the roof (4000+ page views a day vs. a typical day's 1200), presumably represented mainly people desperate just to get news of Cyclone Phet. As such my numbers may more represent the dirth of reliable english language Government info than the core popularity of Muscat Confidential. (But hey, a lot of those visitors ended up joining the excellent MC Facebook fan page, so I'm not complaining.)

Government use of the internet could improve a lot to help get info across, in an age where even semi-smart phones can surf. There was 1 txt in the whole 3 days, just giving phone numbers for search and rescue. 1 lousy text.

Well done to OmanHel and Nawras for keeping the 3G+ networks going all the way through though.

This was hopefully a damn good wake up call to the Government for getting a move on with completing the long delayed earth works and other projects triggered by the catastrophe of Gonu (it was, afterall, 3 friggin' years ago!). If Phet had hit us full on - as a Cat 1 or 2 Cyclone (while Gonu was just a severe tropical storm) - things would not be so pretty. Let's not even think of a Cat 4 or 5...

Existing dams are inadequate and their slip-ways totally unable to handle the debris and water volume of such storms. In their present state, in a big storm, the dams would be a danger, not a help.

The big wadi crossing motorways are not finished. The main Batinah wadis (Qurm, Adai, Ghubra, etc) have not been turned into proper, deep, concrete lined mega-drainage ditches to the ocean.

People continue to be allowed to build significant new buildings in the major wadis and flood plains because of wasta and ill-defined rules.

The airport could have been closed for a long time, and can the new one being built really handle 300mm per day of rain for 2 or 3 days?

There is little weather-proof core redundancy in the power grid. Etc etc etc.

Oman these days is obviously in a period of world weather when we should expect such cyclones regularly. Gonu was not a 'one in a 100 year' event. We get cyclones now chaps. Better start dealing with it with proper engineering.

Overall - we were just lucky. There remains a huge amount to be done to prepare for the next Cyclone, some of it (like the communications) can be done almost instantly.

It's time to get on with it.

In other news,
Essa indeed spent his ghost-written weekly rant on the shameful and incompetent Israeli attack on the Gaza Flotilla. Not on the death toll on the roads, not on the Cyclone, not on the poor state of Omani employment, nor our pitifully poor education system; not on the lack of any meaningful support to Gaza by Oman or in fact by any Arab nation. (note, Hamas is not really a big fan of the Gulf States either). No, not even an incisive view on the imminent largest bankruptcy in Oman's history (Blue City).

He also blames the US for the attack.

People might like to consider the main provider of aid to Gaza: the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.

... the chief U.N. agency in Gaza is the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA. Love or hate it--and I am no fan--UNRWA, according to its website, is "the main provider of basic services--education, health, relief and social services--to 4.7 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East." Many of those Palestinians live in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. But Gaza is the core of this operation. UNRWA‘s headquarters are in Gaza, where 1.1 million Palestinians--the bulk of Gaza's population--are registered on UNRWA's refugee rolls and eligible for its services.

UNRWA gets 98% of its funding from voluntary donations, mostly from U.N. member states. Turkey looks like a great candidate to be a big donor. In 2008 Turkey's economy was ranked by the World Bank as the 17th largest on the planet. Given the Turkish government's professed interest in the welfare of Palestinians, you might suppose that Turkey would be among the top 10 state donors to UNRWA? Or at least the top 20?

Turkey doesn't even make the cut.

The largest donor to UNRWA is the U.S., which in 2009, according to UNRWA's statistics, gave $268 million. Next is the European Commission, which in 2009 gave $232.7 million. Together, the U.S. and E.U. account for almost half of all UNRWA funding. Other major donors include the U.K., Spain, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Germany. Or, if you want to measure in terms of donations per capita, notes UNRWA on its website, "Scandinavian countries top the list," with Sweden in 2009 giving $48.6 million, Norway $39 million and Denmark $19.9 million.

Among UNRWA's top 20 donors for 2009, there are only two countries from the Middle East: Kuwait, which in 2009 gave $35.5 million, and Saudi Arabia, with $27.6 million.
From Defend

Oman, by the way, in 2009 donated a grand total of $930,700 bucks, the equivalent of less than 2% of just 1 day's worth of our oil production. The full list of 2009 donors is here.

So that's alright then. Cheap printed polemic really helps feed the starving kids of Gaza, doesn't it?


  1. It looks as if most western European governments give at least twice –
    once through the EU (227 million ) and
    again separately as a national contribution – in the case of the UK (50 million ) and probably
    again through tax deductions on any charity giving .
    Here is a nice chart showing how individual countries contribute to charity generally - it does not take into account donations by individuals – in the way that the UNRWA chart you gave does( ) ;
    that shows a slew of semi-government contributions from the Gulf on the last page – can one assume the Times Editor’s cheque is in the post?

  2. DD,
    as always informative and amusing. You did not mention something which I found VERY important. The creation of a fb group "Cyclone Phet Oman" where updates were coming CONSTANTLY from a huge crowd of people (more than 4000 people in 48hrs).
    Everyone chipped in and it was an amazing display of responsible citizenship... I wrote something about them in my blog. Excellent actions...
    Also, Dar al Atta, since 2-3 days are constantly organizing materials and lots of stuff to be transferred with volunteers to the affected areas. Very good work

  3. 1) "Dubai one" said 52 ppl dead due to phet in
    Oman. We all know the govt here would not
    say the true numbers of how many ppl were
    2) Oman TV in Arabic or English did not do its
    job, while we were in the mids of Phet they
    kept on showing how to cook damn Halwa
    3) They sure did not talk about "Some safety
    that ppl need to take during storm,
    hurricane, cyclone, any emergence disaster
    apart from what we are doing now is:
    Not only stay away from the window but to
    have duck tape and big black trash bags. The
    bags should be covering the windows and the
    duck tape should go across the window in an
    X manner"
    4) If you want to learn how to Make 7alwa
    (Halwa) wait for the next cyclone and watch
    Oman TV. what a Joke!!

  4. Thanks a lot for the regular Phet updates - they proved the only source of reliable information at a time (like you correctly pointed out) when people need to be informed of the severity.

    On a separate note, I would like to acknowledge the army of Indian labourers who have been very prompt to drain the water and, this morning, clean the dry mud. It's a shame that the equipment they are given is so inadequate. No heavy duty brushes - with some using dry palm leaves; one shovel between ten people; no gloves and no water. And to add insult to injury, the 'driver' is sat having a kip in his air conditioned truck!

  5. I cannot blame the westerners for their ignorance and lack of information, but as Muslims we are forbidden to showcase how much we helped or do help. So perhaps yes the western countries and westerners may talk about it and have a chart that’s shows who donated how much and what not, we cannot,should not and would not do so as Muslims!!
    Thank you very much and have a wonderful a good day thinking about that :)

  6. Right on the money: ''Hamas is not really a big fan of the Gulf States either''

    Put your money where ur mouth is. Solutions not complaints. That is the sunnah afterall.

    If u r going to say something is wrong, than do something to right it. The Prophet Mohamed (SAW) told Muslims to right things with their own hands first, before just speaking out against them.

    About PHET, good summary of what needs to be done. We were very fortunate this time.

  7. What do u have against Essa & his sons? really pathetic !

  8. Dragon- Ole Shk Issa is simply a grandstander playing to the hometown fans. I thought his editorial was actually very mild. I am sure when he receives the first dividend check from his Blue City investment, he will make a sizable donation to his Palestinian Brothers.

  9. U are actually mistaken, even us omanis didn't know about the cyclone till wednesday when they first announced its progression to oman eastern coast

  10. @ Anon 10:17 am: is quite right, Muslims aren't supposed to say what they give in charity, but the Omani government would have to say what they gave. But @ UD's comment "not on the lack of any meaningful support to Gaza by Oman or in fact by any Arab nation. " is sooooooooooooooo to the point. No one is backing and protecting Palestine with their military or MAJOR GOVERNMENT funding in countries that ARE pro-Palestine.

    I didn't read the article but as a Muslim I have always felt this way about the Gulf states, bashing Israel verbally but doing nothing about it in any way that could change something.

  11. DD,

    Thanks for a wonderfully informative blog over the last few days.
    I visited the lovely people at the blood bank yesterday for my three monthly draining. Can you put a big shout out for volunteers as they are desperately short of blood at the moment.

  12. Just wanted to say thanks for the updates.

    I do want to mention though that the FM radio did have updates in Tagalog and Urdu (maybe more languages but they happened to be on when i got in my car and turned on the radio) and I thought that was a good thing. I know most people listen to the other FM station who in this case did not do a great job.

    My thanks go to the civil defense dept and to all those amazing workers who have been busy cleaning up.

  13. Dragon,

    I dont know what is in you with palestinians ?!!
    I will try this time to see where you are coming from so to have a better understanding. Now I know Issa and myself are muslims and arab. It is mentioned in our Quran about Ascent and Decent of Isreal and we have strong feelings about the subject since Israelis are "racist" against arabs and muslims and hence we support the palestian side. But you !!!! where do you come from ??!! You say ur a British athiest who I "think" should be neutral to the confilct since it is non of ur business and you u have no real motive to be baised to one side unless you are hiding something maybe ?? .. I remember when I studied in UK I had no feelings or bais in North Irland situation because to me it was not my battle and issue is very complex I will look stupid if I rant about it. Same here its not like you have tried living in Gaza or West bank … did you ?
    How can you stick ur nose in suffering of millions of palestinians and at same time lecture Issa and myself about minding our home problems first ?


  14. talking the talk and walking the walk

    to be polemic about the talk and not even attempting the walk

    strikes many as being worthy of comment

    to continually blame others for lack of action or their supporting one side over another , while not apparently doing much yourself

    strikes many as being worthy of comment

    to do all that while not shining the same spotlight on recurring problems close to home; if not your own home at least a few kilometers down the coast

    strikes many as being worthy of comment

    to be in a position of power to influence and use that power for one’s family only and at vast cost to a country

    strikes many as being worthy of comment

    looking at the various donations given – there are quite a few from named Arab organizations (including names of people) who don’t strike one as being modest about letting people know about their charitable donations, vast wealth and power, indeed the Kuwait Fund's adverts are frequent . Being noted isn’t some method of bragging on behalf of the donator, but as a simple matter of accountancy ; as was done for the small donation by the Holy See/Vatican

    One suspects that many of the British people on the various ships arrested by the Israelis hadn’t been to Palestine,
    one suspects that many of the British people marching through British cities haven’t been to Palestine .
    One suspects that they will not only be on ships and marches for Palestinians but also on ships and marches for other oppressed people –

    talk their talk and then
    walk their walk ;
    not knowing all the details doesn’t stop one making an informed judgment about right and wrong and commenting on it and

    if in a democracy such as Britain you feel unable to comment, unless you are a certified expert, then democracy aint what was it was .

  15. If Oman is not good enough for you then why don’t you go back to your perfect countries.

    Man you are really obsessed with Issa, i wonder why?

  16. Al Mamari, UD's point and view is quite clear. If you can't understand this blog, i suggest you stop reading it. A few facts for you, many people in the West feel terrible about the Palestine issue. However, all we can do is give to charity and the braver ones go to the occupied territories and do what they can, medically, educationally, logistically etc. The point is many GCC countries like to talk about the atrocities and stamp their feet, but alas this is only to please the Arab street. If the GCC states really want to help there are many ways in which they can do this.

    P.S Issa is an embarassment, he really has a naive view off things and he seems quite bitter. I pity him. The nonce!


  17. To thatwhatsI,

    The thing with Dragon is that he accused Hamas leadership of being terrosits in some of his rants on his blog. That is a Zionist propaganda. He has already baised his opinion and I want to know what is his agenda of repeated posts about Issa and palestinian case ?

    I agree that we in Oman have larger problems at home then to be obssesed with Palestinians who are thousands of miles away from here and cant do nothing except talk. But same logic applies to all of us here since I am 100% sure that you have many issues at your home country and it is not as prefect democracy as you would like us to believe.


  18. Al-mamari= Issa

  19. Al Mamari and OMR once again rear their ugly heads. I say we ignore these fools who make Oman look like a Medieval country, which it is NOT! As the world progresses with intellect and reason, these stone agers will remain in the dust. They, for me and many, are for entertainment purposes only.

    And, by the way, I am pretty sure Dragon is not obsessed with Issa; he is just pointing out the ridiculous rhetoric that makes Omani media a laughing stock in the world! No one outside of Al Qaeda and other fanatics tak this guy seriously. He makes Omanis look like fools..and the majority of them are NOT fools. Issa and his loser son Anees have destroyed the image of Oman despite HM Qaboos being an exemplary leader in the region! Shame on them for alduterating the great progresses that HM has achieved!!!

  20. Al-mamari ;

    agree with you ; but positive change is often initiated by people called terrorists ; and yes lots of issues in my home country, not least the grasping financiers who have driven a major economy to the wall while opiated politicians turned glazed eyes ;

    but hey! the blog's about Oman ; and on the horizon Sheikhs are coming to the rescue of some lucky people up this coast

  21. What is the problem with Essra and his sons?!?!?!?
    Demonizing a whole race/country of people is so not cool and you'd have to be completely in the dark not to understand that. I'm sure UD would be just as quick to denounce anyone trying to claim that all Omanis are evil. (or any other race/nationality, I'm sure!) Then there is denying the holocaust which is ludicrous.

    There seems to be a double-standard with many crying "Islamophobia" on one side and "Down with the Jews" on the other.
    This comic captures PERFECTLY the double-standard of so-many screaming their "Death to the Jews" slogans.
    Oman, for the most part, I believe, contains tolerant, open-minded, and loving people. Perhaps some of you (omnr, anonymous...) should ship off with Essra and his sons to Saudi Arabia! And YES, Hamas is a terrorist group, moron!

  22. I am pretty sure Dragon is not obsessed with Issa; he is just pointing out the ridiculous rhetoric that makes Omani media a laughing stock in the world! No one outside of Al Qaeda and other fanatics tak this guy seriously.

  23. *note: not all factions of Hamas. Hamas is a political group. You cannot call the medical wing of the government a terrorist cell. So it is a bit annoyming to Muslims when the ENTIRE political group is labelled terrorist when by definition a terrorist group is a group that thinks it is okay to kill innocent civilians to obtain military or political objectives. Not every member of Hamas DOES think so.... Now, um yet again, moving back to Oman, since Oman isn't really going to do anything militarily to aid Philistine.... which I BELIEVE was UD's original point about the article and its timing.

  24. Please follow it up to see what is the real cost of damages because of PHET, preferably divided by region/province/area. Also it is important to follow exact number of unfortunate death by nationality and compensation offered/received.

  25. First re Phet the best info fo rmay was a website mentioned by our Greek friend. As for TV and Radio a big let down. Love the joke about Toyota Echo as on Sunday caming downfrom UAE got stuck in Seeb and road was jammed with Echos that dared cross the wadi plus plenty of nosy meerkats causing more havoc. We should say thanks to God that damage was limited and very few lives were lost.

    As for Essa he is a law unto himself and does not represent majority of Omanis and his chip off the old bloke son Anees well - spineless is best way to describe him. Their newspaper is a waste of money and so pathetic and the biggest con.

    As for Palestinian issue - according to my theory charity begins at home and there are plenty of Omanis who could use help financially or are in dire circumstance. Oman is vast and plenty of people in villages and other towns and very few who manage to have one decent meal a day. How about setting up a social welfare system to help widows, orphans, unemployed etc. Cleasn up your back yard first and do right by your people or citizens.

    As for who is a terrorist depends on who has the strongest allies. But people defending their lands and their people I would never consider as terrorists. I never considered IRA as terrorist and they were financed and armed by US. Infact as for US its two pronged actions leaves its credibility in tatters as one hand hand it supports Israel to the max and even vetos in UN any actions against it and on the other hand it donated financial aid to pacify the world that they are helping the victims too. Two faced politics is no longer acceptable in todays world and people are no longer ingorant of facts any more.

    A. Al Busaidy

  26. A terrorist is a person or organization who uses terror as a means to obtain their demands. It hardly matters whether their demands are just or not ; it is the modus operandi that defines them.

    One could discuss ad finitum about the presence of the English (Norman) in Ireland since 1169 in much the same way as
    the Inca/Aztec descendants will discuss the presence of the Spanish in America, the Berbers the Arab presence in north-west Africa, the Uyghur / Mongols the Muscovite presence in Siberia, the Tibetans the Chinese presence in Tibet (or the Uyghurs again the Chinese presence in their previous Khanate) and the Dravidians the Indo-Aryan presence in India

    The IRA and its various sub-groups were responsible for killing untold civilians after Eire split from Britain ; the ‘Provos’ who were funded by entities from countries as disparate as Libya and the USA killed over 600 civilians including 29 people in a single attack who were shopping on a weekend in Omagh N.Ireland , and in that same bomb over 200 others were injured .

    Imperial powers use brutal force in occupation as imperial powers do , and original inhabitants may only have been able to use terrorist methods to achieve their aim ; but terrorism is terrorism, right or wrong .

  27. God will protect everyone


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