Rare Cyclone Batters Middle East

June 6, 2007—

There’s a storm raging in the Middle East—and this one has nothing to do with religion or politics.

A NASA satellite image shows Cyclone Gonu bearing down on the Gulf of Oman on June 5, 2007. At the time, the tropical storm had reached Category 4 status, with sustained winds of 155 miles (250 kilometers) an hour.

The storm weakened as it neared Oman on Wednesday morning but still battered the normally quiet seaside capital of Masqat (Muscat) with torrential rains and howling gusts reaching 62 miles (100 kilometers) an hour (map of Oman). Thousands were forced to evacuate, and many of the region’s oil installations had to be shut down.

Gonu—which means “bag made of palm leaves” in the langauge of the Maldives—is the strongest storm to threaten the Arabian Peninsula since record-keeping started in 1945, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“Historical record in that part of the world doesn’t go back that far, because these types of storms are very, very unusual for this part of the world,” Julian Heming, a meteorologist at the British Ministry of Defense’s weather-tracking agency, told AP.

“It’s likely that parts of Oman have never experienced storms like this.” According to NASA, the last storm of this size to form over the Arabian Sea was a cyclone that moved along the coast of India between May 21 and May 28, 2001.

Forecasters say Iran will be the next country in Gonu’s path, and hundreds of people are already being evacuated from coastal areas. Meanwhile, Iranian officials say the storm will not stop oil operations in the Persian Gulf.

—Victoria Jaggard / National Geographic News

Picture: Cyclone Gonu forced thousands from their homes, cut off electricity and damaged infrastructure [EPA]

READ AS WELL AL JAZEERA NEWS: Cyclone Gonu death toll rises
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