Panic as Yemen's Socotra hit by new cyclone

By AFP
Published: November 8, 2015
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Yemenis walk along a flooded street in Aden on November 3, 2015, following a tropical cyclone that has slammed into the country. PHOTO: AFP

Yemenis walk along a flooded street in Aden on November 3, 2015, following a tropical cyclone that has slammed into the country. PHOTO: AFP

ADEN: A new cyclone made landfall in war-ravaged Yemen’s Socotra island on Sunday, causing panic amid locals as a minister posted an “urgent appeal” to save residents from the second tropical storm in a week.

Heavy winds, rain, and flash floods swept through Socotra as the storm, named Megh, hit the island, already badly battered by last week’s cyclone Chapala, residents said.

The fisheries minister Fahd Kavieen, who hails from Socotra himself, urged the United Nations and neighbouring Oman to “urgently intervene with emergency teams to save residents” on the island “which is now facing a cyclone stronger than Chapala.”

The Arabian Sea island of Socotra is 350 kilometres off the Yemeni mainland. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokeswoman Clare Nullis said on Friday that Megh is not as powerful as Chapala, which had killed eight people in south-eastern Yemen.

But Socotra resident and humanitarian activist Abdulrauf al-Juhaimali told AFP on Sunday that “this cyclone is stronger than Chapala.”

People who had returned to their seafront homes, already destroyed by Chapala, fled again on Sunday to government buildings on highlands as heavy floods hit again, he said.

Tropical cyclones are extremely rare over the Arabian Peninsula, and having two back-to-back was “an absolutely extraordinary event,” said Nullis.

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said Friday that up to 44,000 people had already been displaced by Chapala, which made landfall in mainland Yemen on Tuesday, triggering heavy flash floods and mudslides.

Chapala had forced the evacuation of 18,000 people on the island and completely destroyed 237 homes, according to OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke. But no one on the island was killed, despite initial reports that three people had died, he said.

OCHA had set up a special 11-man support and response team, based in Oman, to help with the relief efforts, added Laerke.

More than 900 UN staff are meanwhile already on the ground in Yemen to help respond to the needs after Chapala, but also from the violent conflict plaguing the country.

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