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Cyclone kills 16, halts oil production in Oman

Cyclone Phet, despite weakening to a Category 1 storm, pummels Oman's coastline, killing 16. Phet is expected to hit near Karachi, Pakistan, as a tropical storm.
Image: Fishing boats in Karachi
Fishing boats are seen moored at a harbor along the Arabian Sea in Karachi on Thursday, ahead of a major cyclone heading toward the Pakistan coastline.Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: news services

Cyclone Phet, despite weakening to a Category 1 storm, pummelled Oman's coastline on Friday, killing 16 and halting the small oil-producing country's oil and gas production for a day, officials and state media said.

Oman's Civil Defense Chief says Tropical Cyclone Phet has killed 16 people and left four others missing.

Gen. Malik al-Muamri said Saturday that oil exports from Oman's al-Fahl port have resumed and the liquefied natural gas plant reopened after the cyclone, which was downgraded to a tropical storm, moved toward Pakistan.

He said 14 Omanis, one Indian and one Bangladeshi died in the storm.

Over the past two days, most of Oman's eastern provinces and the capital Muscat experienced heavy rains and winds of up to 97 miles an hour, although the country was relatively unscathed compared to Phet's predecessor.

"This is not as bad as (Cyclone) Gonu and people are better prepared," said Ali Rashid, a resident of the capital Muscat.

Cyclone Gonu, which battered the country in 2007, killed 54 people swept away by flood waters in Oman and Iran.

The latest storm path forecast on shows Phet downgrading to a tropical storm before it hits the Pakistani coastline near Karachi.

Pakistani authorities had already evacuated nearly 1,000 people and were on standby for more. In a worst-case scenario, up to 50,000 people could be affected on Pakistan's coast, said Commander Salman Ali, a spokesman for Pakistan Navy in Karachi.

Phet hit Sur, where Oman's three LNG production facilities, known as trains, are located, but no damage has been reported. Oman produces around 8 million tonnes of LNG per year.

Oman LNG shut down one train on Thursday and was shutting down its remaining trains on Friday, Oman LNG spokesman Nasser al-Kindy said, adding that Qalhat LNG, which supplies Spain and Japan, would also be shutting down its trains.

Omani state television said heavy rains were expected on Friday in Muscat, located near the port of Mina al-Fahal, where Oman's crude is exported. But Busaidy said the port had not been damaged. "The Mina Fahal exporting facility is fine," he said.