Yemen flooding death toll rises

Other News Materials 25 October 2008 12:58 (UTC +04:00)

The death toll from flooding that swept through southwestern Yemen has risen to over 40 people, with six more deaths from people struck by lightning, officials have said, reproted Aljazeera.

Officials said on Saturday that preliminary information showed 41 people had died in the floods that hit the provinces of Hadramaut and Mahara last week.

They also said that four people were killed by lightning in the southern provinces of Tayez and Lahj, and a mother and son were also killed when lightning struck them in the al-Mahwit region north of the capital Sanaa.

Hadramaut and Mahara were both declared disaster zones on Friday, officials said.

Rescue co-ordinators said that among the victims were seven people who perished in al-Mukalla, the capital of Hadramaut which is located on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Among the affected areas is the Unesco world heritage site of Shibam, where the area's historic mudbrick buildings are threatened with collapse.

Shibam, which was totally isolated by the flood waters, is home to more than 20,000 people and is famous for its mudbrick high-rises that have given the town the nickname of "the Manhattan of the desert".

On Friday, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, visited Hadramaut's capital of Mokalla to oversee rescue operations after tasking a government commission with handling the effort.

Local authorities said that more than 500 houses had been destroyed across Hadramaut, where at least 3,500 people were made homeless.

A cargo vessel also ran aground off the port of Nashtun in Mahra, but all 17 crew members were rescued, a member of the crisis cell in said.

Local authorities said the floods caused heavy damage to roads and power and water distribution networks.

Five army helicopters were flown to the area to try to rescue thousands of people stranded by the floods, he said.

Helicopters belonging to oil firms operating in the area were also enlisted to help, but gusty winds hampered rescue efforts.

The storm formed in the Indian Ocean this week, first headed to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, then turned, weakened into a tropical depression and moved towards southern coast.

At least 25 people were killed in Yemen in April 2006 in floods and lightning brought on by torrential rains in eight provinces of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.