Cyclone Gonu batters Oman's coast

Semi-trucks were trapped in flooded highways after Cyclone Gonu battered Oman's coast on its path toward southeastern Iran.

As the storm a rarity in the Middle East headed away from Oman it continued to lose steam, dropping off to tropical storm strength Thursday, according to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Oil analysts said the weakening storm's affect on the market was minimal.

The center predicted Cyclone Gonu would make landfall on the southeastern Iranian coast late Thursday. But it was likely to spare Iran's offshore oil installations that lie more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) to the west, the center and oil officials said.

At least 20 deaths were blamed on Gonu in Oman, including members of police rescue squads, and 24 were reported missing, said Oman Royal Police spokesman Abdullah al-Harthi. Rescue teams were searching the devastated areas using helicopters and boats, he said.

Across the Gulf of Oman, Iranian state television reported that a resident of the port city of Bandar Abbas was killed in a car accident Wednesday due to low visibility from the storm. Two provincial government workers bringing emergency supplies to a flooded area also were killed when a river overflowed and flipped their truck in Jask, a town 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Bandar Abbas, state TV's Web site said.

The storm caused little damage to Oman's relatively small oil fields. But Wednesday's raging seas had prevented tankers from sailing from Omani ports, effectively shutting down the country's oil exports, said Nasser bin Khamis al-Jashimi of the Ministry of Oil and Gas.

But analysts said overall, Gonu did not significantly affect the oil industry.