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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has been unanimously elected to chair the UN panel tasked with monitoring cyclones in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the Kingdom’s meteorology office said on Wednesday.
The appointment is to the 13-nation World Meteorological Organization/UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Panel on Tropical Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Ayman bin Salem Ghulam, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology, said the appointment is a “testament to the country’s pioneering role and its commitment to addressing critical issues related to disasters and their significant impact on humanity, both regionally and internationally.”
Ghulam said it was important to strengthen monitoring and forecasting systems to minimize loss of life and property, especially since there has been an increase in the number of tropical cyclones in the region and the world.
The panel was set up in 1972 in the aftermath of Cyclone Bhola, the world’s deadliest tropical cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh in November 1970.
From six original members (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand), the panel grew to 13, and now includes the Maldives, Oman, and Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Iran joined in 2018.
A report published by ReliefWeb, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, noted that the panel has successfully tracked and monitored several tropical cyclones, “providing accurate early warnings that led to targeted evacuations and saving tens of thousands at risk.”
ReliefWeb cited the region’s experiences with cyclones Mocha and Biparjoy as proof of the effectiveness of cross-border collaboration involving real-time data sharing and risk-information exchange.
Mocha, which emerged from the Bay of Bengal on May 14, 2023, hit Myanmar with sustained winds of 180 to 190 kph, violent gusts, and torrential rainfall, causing widespread flooding in the impoverished state.
“Mocha made the landfall in a most vulnerable context of compounding poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. However, the impact differed significantly from the 2008 devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis, a storm as powerful as Cyclone Mocha, which resulted in the loss of over 138,000 lives in Myanmar,” the report said.
On June 26, 2023, Biparjoy, emerging from the Arabian Sea with wind speed of 140 kph, hit densely populated parts of India’s west coast of Gujarat state, but no casualties were recorded, the report noted.
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