NNA – A rare 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 Tuesday.
Packing winds of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, Cyclone Chapala made landfall in the southeastern provinces of Hadramawt and Shabwa, Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafain told AFP.
“The damage is enormous and we fear human losses,” said the minister, part of a commission set up to deal with the cyclone that brewed in the Arabian Sea.
The storm earlier wreaked havoc on the island of Socotra located 350 kilometers off the Yemeni mainland.
More than 200 people were injured and dozens of houses and hamlets were severely damaged or washed away, said Salem Zaher, mayor of the island’s main district Hadibo.
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.
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 on Monday.
The “very severe cyclonic storm” brought maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour with gusts of up to 145 kilometers per hour when it made landfall, it said in a joint update Tuesday with India’s meteorological agency.
But the cyclone had since lost strength and was expected to weaken into a tropical depression during the next 12 hours, it added.
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 2014 to tighten their grip on the sprawling southeast.
Neighboring Oman downgraded its state of alert, saying the cyclone had moved westwards and would not directly hit the sultanate.
However, the Omani meteorological agency warned that waves as high as three meters (10 feet) were still expected to hit the shores of Dhofar and Al-Wusta provinces–AFP.