‘Enormous damage’, as Yemen hit by worst cyclone in decades
ADEN // The worst cyclone to hit Yemen in decades flooded coastal areas, brought down electricity lines and destroyed houses after making landfall on Tuesday.
“The damage is enormous and we fear human losses,” said Yemen’s minister of fisheries, Fahd Kafeen, who is part of a commission set up to deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Chapala.
The Yemen Post newspaper described the south-eastern city of Al Mukalla as being “under water”, saying on Twitter that Chapala “drowns city with 40 inches of water.”
Thousands fled their homes before the cyclone struck the coast of Hadramout and Shabwa provinces. Chapala had earlier wrought havoc on the island of Socotra – located 350 kilometres off the Yemeni mainland – killing three people.
Mr Kafeen said contact had been lost with 30 Yemeni boats and an Indian ship, last located close to Socotra. In the provincial capital of Al Mukalla, which has been largely ruled by Al Qaeda fighters since the army withdrew in April, floodwater submerged cars on the streets and filled houses.
Heavy rain began at 1am and lasted for about ten hours, a journalist based in the city’s Aref Bamomen area / told The National.
“Around 15 houses [in Al Mukalla district of which the city is part] were partly destroyed by Chapala, in addition to the destruction of electricity lines,” he said.
He said the district’s residents had formed relief committees, which were helping to find shelter for those whose homes had been damaged, and moving their furniture to safer locations.
Patients at the Al Rayan and Motherhood and Children hospitals, which are located near the coast, were evacuated to hospitals in safer parts of the district.
There were no reported casualties in the district so far, he said, attributing this to the fact that 3,000 families had fled their homes in coastal areas ahead of the storm’s arrival, for shelters in safer parts of the district.
Mr Kafeen said the storm had also badly hit the Gala’ah area of neighbouring Shabwa province.
Though the relief response was hampered by Yemen’s raging civil war and poor infrastructure, several organisations had started to distribute basic food, blankets and medicines to the displaced in Socotra on Tuesday.
The World Health Organization said it had delivered trauma kits for 1,000 patients in Al Mukalla and was providing fuel for hospitals and ambulances.
The “very severe cyclonic storm” brought maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometres per hour with gusts of up to 145 kilometres per hour when it made landfall, said the UN weather agency, but added that Chapala had since rapidly lost strength.
More than 200 people were injured on Socotra and dozens of houses and hamlets were severely damaged or washed away, said Salem Dahaqm, mayor of the island’s Hadibo district. Some earlier reports said three people had been killed there.
An Omani plane also arrived on Socotra carrying aid, said Mr Dahaqm. Emirati charities said on Monday they were preparing aid deliveries.
Neighbouring Oman downgraded its state of alert on Tuesday, saying Chapala had moved westward and would not directly hit the sultanate.
However, the Omani meteorological agency warned that waves as high as three metres were still expected to hit the shores of Dhofar and Al Wusta provinces.
* With additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse