Emergency rescue teams on the east coast were put on standby last night as residents prepared for Cyclone Phet to make landfall. The category four cyclone is expected to hit the UAE today, bringing with it strong winds and rain. A 57-man quick response crew has been put on alert and "rapid intervention" teams were deployed to the northern emirate, the area likely to be hit hardest by the storm.
A command centre has been established to co-ordinate efforts to deal with the high winds and wet weather, the national news agency, WAM, reported last night. Lt Gen Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, gave the orders to station the team in Fujairah after the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) forecast that the cyclone might affect the coastline.
Col Mohammed Abdullah Nasib al Nuaimi, the acting director of emergency and public safety at Abu Dhabi Police, said the joint operations room would co-ordinate with Fujairah Police and other national authorities. He added that the reports from NCMS said that the rescue team was only a precautionary measure to protect the safety of citizens and residents. The Tropical Storm Risk organisation in Britain had Oman on red alert yesterday.
The NCMS website urged people to take precautions and "be alert", warning of dangerous conditions ahead. It told people to be aware of the risks of outdoor activities. The Emirates Meteorology blog said the storm, which developed in the Arabian Sea yesterday, was expected to make landfall today, and it would likely bring heavy rains, possibly with effects felt as far away as Al Ain. Although intense cyclones are rare in the Arabian Sea, Phet is the second-strongest recorded, behind the category five Cyclone Gonu of 2007 which caused devastation in Oman, killing at least 32 people.
That cyclone brought huge waves to the UAE, triggering road closures and traffic diversions across Fujairah. The road connecting Kalba and Fujairah was closed after it was submerged by floodwater. At the time, it was reported that waves reached 10 metres and damaged several fishing boats. Many boats were relocated, but damage to the port area was said to be severe. One boat with 10 passengers sank due to the high seas.
In March, the UAE was battered by severe storms with the heaviest rainfall measured in Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah. More than 61mm of rain fell on Masafi, between the two emirates. In Abu Dhabi, 43.4mm of rain fell, with 22mm recorded in Dubai and 20mm in Sharjah. However, the meteorologists' predicitions did not disappoint everyone. Surfers were delighted at news of the large swells the storm would produce and headed east, preparing to follow the storm front along the coastline.