Cyclone batters war-torn Yemen

Storm worsens humanitarian crisis

DESPERATE ACTION: A man tries to save a vehicle being swept away by floodwaters on Yemen’s island of Socotra. PICTURE: REUTERS
DESPERATE ACTION: A man tries to save a vehicle being swept away by floodwaters on Yemen’s island of Socotra. PICTURE: REUTERS

ARARE tropical cyclone has slammed into Yemen, triggering heavy flooding and causing enormous damage in a region of the war-racked country dominated by al-Qaeda, a senior official said yesterday.

Packing winds of more than 100km/h, Cyclone Chapala made landfall in the southeastern provinces of Hadramawt and Shabwa, Fisheries Minister Fahd Kafain said.

“The damage is enormous and we fear human losses,” he said.

The minister is part of a commission set up to deal with the cyclone that brewed in the Arabian Sea.

The World Health Organisation said it had delivered trauma kits for 1 000 patients in Mukalla and was providing fuel for hospitals and ambulances.

It said Hadramawt and Shabwa had a combined population of about 1.8 million people, including more than 100 000 internally displaced and 27 000 refugees and migrants.

The storm earlier wreaked havoc on the island of Socotra located 350km off the Yemeni mainland.

More than 200 people were injured and dozens of houses and hamlets were damaged or washed away

Images posted on social media showed heavy floods hitting the streets of Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt, bringing further misery to Yemenis already beset by poverty and rampant unrest.

The Yemen Post newspaper described the city as being under water, saying on Twitter that Chapala “drowns city with 40 inches [a metre] of water”.

Cars were half-submerged in muddy water while seafront roads were badly damaged by high waves.

“The rainfall from Chapala is far beyond anything ever witnessed in this arid area, which is not used to cyclones,” the UN weather agency said.

The severe cyclonic storm brought maximum sustained winds of 130km/h with gusts of up to 145km/h when it made landfall, it said in a joint update yesterday with India’s meteorological agency.

But Chapala had since rapidly lost strength, it said.

Mukalla has been mostly controlled by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula since April.

The militants have taken advantage of the chaos that has engulfed the country since Huthi Shiite rebels overran the capital Sanaa in September last year to tighten their grip on the sprawling southeast.

Impoverished Yemen is already facing a deep humanitarian crisis with a severe lack of food and medicine caused by the conflict.

About 10 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.


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