Middle East shipping on 36-hour cyclone alert

GCC countries, as well as India and Pakistan brace for impact of Cyclone Ashobaa in Arabian Sea
Ashobaa will track westward toward Oman or north toward Pakistan over the next 36 hours.
Ashobaa will track westward toward Oman or north toward Pakistan over the next 36 hours.

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The tropical storm Ashobaa, which is expected to develop into a cyclone in the next 24 hours, will start to have an impact on UAE and Omani shipping through Tuesday.

The warning comes via a statement from the UAE’s National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) which said “high winds on the east coast will lead to rough seas and reduced visibility”.

Ashobaa was upgraded from a deep depression to a tropical storm Monday by the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), at the same time that Pakistan issued a shipping alert for its southern coastline warning of rough seas exceeding 15-feet.

The storm, the leading edge of which is currently around 500-kilometres off the coast of Oman, is forecast to either continue on its current trajectory and turn westward toward the Omani coast, or take a more northerly path and make landfall in Pakistan.

The Oman Public Authority for Civil Aviation (Paca), says it is monitoring the storm closely and said in a statement that “the latest weather analysis indicates the possibility of deepening of the tropical storm while moving north to northwest direction during the next two days”.

The authority warned that wind speeds were likely to reach 74kph, while the Tropical Storm Risk Centre said Sur was likely to be worst-affected, with winds speeds of between 120-150kph and very rough seas.

UAE maritime authorities have said the impact on local shipping is expected to be minor, unlike Cyclone Gonu, a 'super cyclonic storm' that barreled through the Strait of Hormuz in 2007, causing massive disruptions to Middle East shipping.

Gonu remains the strongest tropical cyclone ever to hit the Arabian Peninsula with winds of 240kph at its peak. The cyclone caused about US $4 billion in damage and 50 deaths in Oman, and was considered the nation's worst natural disaster.

In the UAE, the cyclone prompted the evacuation of Jebel Ali Port and Port Rashid, but both precautions were suspended early as the cyclone tracked eastward toward Iran, where it killed 28 people.

RELATED: Storm disrupts more than 450 flights in Saudi

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