x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Fujairah's corniche shut as rescuers keep watch for storm

The emirate's corniche was closed to the public last night to minimise any damage from Cyclone Phet.

A surfer takes advantage of the large waves caused by the cyclone at Snoopy Island in Fujairah yesterday.
A surfer takes advantage of the large waves caused by the cyclone at Snoopy Island in Fujairah yesterday.

Fujairah's Corniche was closed to the public last night to minimise any damage from Cyclone Phet. Rescue teams remained on standby, waiting to respond should the storm affect the UAE's coast between Kalba and Dibba. Fifty-seven members of the UAE Urban Search and Rescue Team kept watch throughout the day, said Col Mohammed al Naeimi, the deputy director of the emergency and public safety department at Abu Dhabi Police. Special teams had been monitoring the situation for three days, he said. "The order came from the Ministry of Interior to send the Urban Search and Rescue Team to support the Fujairah police and civil defence."

Teams were seen driving around the coastal areas, which remained largely calm for most of yesterday, as the storm kept at bay. However, last night, heavier clouds began to form. As a precaution, sandbags were placed along the beach at the Hilton Fujairah. Inspectors were sent to coastal areas, including Sharm, Dadna and Al Badih, as precautionary measures, said Raed al Muhairi, the head of the emergency response team in Fujairah. "It is very normal to strengthen precautionary measures in these situations to be ready for any emergency as a result of the storm," he said.

Parts of the east coast were severely damaged in 2006 when the region was battered by Cyclone Gonu. Residents descended on beaches throughout yesterday, on the lookout for Cyclone Phet. Saif Ahmed, 29, from Sharm, said he was not too concerned. "If the cyclone does come we'll be worried, but it looks pretty clear, it's mostly in Oman," he said. Surfers flocked to a beach near Dibba to take advantage of the waves.

Abdel Elecho, a 33-year-old Filipino who teaches surfing in Dubai, said the waves were the best he had seen in the Emirates. "We arrived at 4am. We were first in the water." Wesley van Zyl, 21, a South African student and local surfing champion, said: "This time of year, there are not too many waves in Dubai. These are probably the best waves I've seen in the UAE." Yesterday was not the first time that Ali el Amine, from the United States, had followed a cyclone to surf. He was also in Fujairah for Cyclone Gonu.

The National Center of Meteorology and Seismology forecast wind speeds reaching up to 64 kph along the east coast today, adding that waves of up to three metres in coastal areas and four metres in the deep sea were expected. It warned against surfing and said waves might break onto seafront streets. Also yesterday, a minor earthquake, registering two on the Richter scale, hit Dibba at 8.30am, the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology reported.

zconstantine@thenational.ae