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JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has been unanimously chosen to chair a UN team to monitor cyclones in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, the kingdom’s meteorological office said on Wednesday.

Pacific Group on Tropical Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and the 13-nation World Meteorological Organization for Asia/UN. The appointment has been made to the Economic and Social Commission, 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 commitment to addressing critical issues related to disasters and their significant impact on humanity at regional and international levels.

Ghulam said it is important to strengthen monitoring and forecasting systems to minimize loss of life and property, especially with the increase in the number of tropical cyclones in the region and globally.

The group was formed in 1972 after Cyclone Bola, the world’s worst tropical cyclone, hit Bangladesh in November 1970, killing more than 300,000 people.

From six original members (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand), the group has grown to 13 and now includes the Maldives, Oman and Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Iran joined in 2018.

In a report released by ReliefWeb of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the team has successfully tracked and monitored several tropical cyclones, “provided accurate warnings and saved tens of thousands of people at risk.”

ReliefWeb cited the region’s experiences with cyclones Mocha and Biparjoy as evidence of the effectiveness of cross-border cooperation involving real-time data sharing and risk-information exchange.

Mocha, which emerged from the Bay of Bengal on May 14, 2023, lashed Myanmar with wind speeds of 180 to 190 km/h, causing widespread flooding in the impoverished state with strong cyclones and heavy rains.

“Mocha created a landslide in a highly vulnerable environment compounded by poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. “However, the impact is significantly different from the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, a storm as powerful as Mocha, which claimed more than 138,000 lives in Myanmar,” the report said.

On June 26, 2023, winds of up to 140 km/h from the Arabian Sea hit densely populated areas of the western coast of India’s Gujarat state, but no casualties were reported, the report noted.


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