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SALALAH, Oman – The Latest on Cyclone Mekunu that is headed for the coast of Oman (all times local):
Streets are largely empty in the Omani coastal city of Salalah ahead of Cyclone Mekunu's expected landfall there this weekend.
Heavy rains and strong winds are already lashing the city. Standing water covered some roads on Friday, causing at least one car to hydroplane and flip over.
There was a sizable police presence on the road, many Royal Oman Police SUVs with chicken wire over the windows. The Port of Salalah has been closed, its cranes secured as rain pounded them.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall early on Saturday near Salalah, Oman's third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people.
Authorities in Oman have opened up local schools in the city of Salalah to shelter those whose homes are at risk as Cyclone Mekunu heads to the shores of this Arabian Peninsula country.
About 600 people, mostly laborers, gathered on Friday at the city's West Salalah School as torrential rains poured down. Some slept on mattresses on the floors of classrooms, where math and English lesson posters hung on the walls.
Shahid Kazmi, a worker from Pakistan's Kashmir region, told The Associated Press that police had moved him and others to the school.
He acknowledged being a bit scared of the storm but said: "Inshallah, we are safe here."
Meteorologists are warning that Cyclone Mekunu is expected to be "extremely severe" when it makes landfall on the Arabian Peninsula this weekend, after earlier thrashing the Yemeni island of Socotra.
At least 17 people are missing from Socotra, with one Yemeni official describing them as likely dead.
Indian meteorologists tracking the cyclone said early Friday that Mekunu would see gusts of up to 180 kilometers (112 miles) per hour.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall early Saturday on the Arabian Peninsula near Salalah, Oman's third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people. Strong waves already are crashing into its beaches early Friday morning.
On Socotra, Gov. Ramzy Mahrous says one ship sank and two others ran aground in the storm.
He says of the missing: "We consider them dead."