Powerful Cyclone Phet barrels toward Oman
MUSCAT (Reuters) - Tropical cyclone Phet barreled toward the coast of the Gulf Arab state of Oman on Wednesday, strengthening quickly on its way to becoming a powerful category five storm.
Phet was not expected to make landfall in Oman, but should instead turn to skim parallel to the Sultanate's shore before roaring northeast toward Pakistan, according to tropical storm watch website www.tropicalstormrisk.com.
Phet would steer clear of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of all seaborne oil trade passes, or about 17 million barrels per day (bpd).
Phet was a Category 3 storm on Wednesday, with sustained winds of over 130 mph. It was expected to become a Category 5 storm, the most powerful with winds of over 156 mph, in the next 24 hours.
Phet would lash Oman's eastern region shores with hurricane-strength winds through Friday before moving northeast. It was expected to weaken before coming ashore just south of Karachi as a Category 3 storm on Sunday.
Oman is a small independent oil producer, pumping about 850,000 bpd. Most of its exports move from the ports of Mina al-Fahal, near the capital of Muscat. The storm was expected to turn northeast before reaching Muscat.
Operations at Oman LNG, the Sultanate's export facility for liquefied natural gas (LNG), were to date unaffected, an Oman LNG spokesperson said.
The three LNG production facilities, known as trains, are based in Sur in the eastern region, closer to the path of the storm. The region is also home to Oman's green back turtle.
"It is business as usual so far with Oman LNG but we are in touch with the authorities to see if there would be any change" Nasser al-Kindy, head of corporate communications at Oman LNG told Reuters.
Oman was battered by powerful Cyclone Gonu in 2007. The storm killed at least 54 people in Oman and Iran.
(Reporting by Saleh al-Shaibany; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
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