Cyclone Mekunu pummels Yemeni island, 17 missing

59

SOCOTRA, Yemen, May 24, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Seventeen people were missing and
hundreds of others evacuated from their homes Thursday after Cyclone Mekunu
hit the Yemeni island of Socotra, causing severe flooding and damage,
officials said.

Neighbouring Oman is preparing for landfall on Friday, with national
weather experts expecting Mekunu to intensify to a category two cyclone from
category one, after it hit Socotra on Wednesday night.

The missing people had been in two boats that sunk and three vehicles swept
away by floods, said Ramzy Mahrous, governor of Socotra, an island paradise
350 kilometres (220 miles) off Yemen in the Arabian Sea.

Yemen’s internationally recognised central government early Thursday
declared Socotra a “disaster province” and Mahrous said it could not handle
relief efforts on its own, with the number of missing expected to rise.

“The coastal areas were submerged by floods causing heavy damage to homes,”
with more than 10 villages in Socotra’s south and east cut off, Mahrous told
AFP.

Four people on one of the sunken boats were rescued while three of the
missing had vehicles swept away by flooding, Fisheries Minister Fahad Kafin
told AFP.

Around 150 families were evacuated to government facilities after downpours
flooded houses and streets, trapping people in their homes, he said.

Some residents carrying children tried to escape through the flooded
streets, an AFP correspondent said.

Authorities called on humanitarian organisations and the Saudi-led military
coalition that is battling Huthi rebels in the country to help, according to
Yemen’s state-run news agency Saba.

“Socotra is a disaster province due to human and material damage at all
levels and requires urgent aid,” said Rajeh Badi, a spokesman for Yemen’s
internationally recognised government.

President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi called Socotra’s governor and promised to
aid rescue efforts.

Yemeni relief officials called on international aid agencies to “send
medical teams urgently” to Socotra and other areas in southern Yemen expected
to be hit by the cyclone.

Millions of Yemenis are living in dire conditions as a result of a long-
running civil conflict, which since 2015 has pitted a Saudi-led coalition
against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

But Socotra has been spared involvement in the violence, which has claimed
nearly 10,000 lives since March 2015 and triggered what the United Nations
has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

In November 2015, Socotra and south Yemen were hit by cyclone Chapala which
injured more than 200 people.

– Bracing for landfall in Oman –

In neighbouring Oman, authorities announced they were taking “necessary
precautions”.

Authorities put the police and army on alert to deal with the strong
cyclone.

State-run Oman television said authorities evacuated hundreds of residents
from a small island off the southern city of Salalah, capital of Dhofar
province.

Provincial health authorities decided to evacuate the main public hospital
and move them to other hospitals to ensure the facility can cope with cyclone
victims.

A statement by Oman’s Meteorological Directorate Thursday said weather maps
show the cyclone intensifying to category two before making land.

It expects the centre of the cyclone to hit the coasts of Dhofar and
Central provinces, some 1,000 kilometres (just over 620 miles) south of the
capital Muscat.

It predicted winds will reach nearly 150 kilometres per hour in some areas.

In 2007, Cyclone Gonu tore through Oman, killing at least 49 people and
causing damage estimated at $3.9 billion (3.3 billion euros).

image_printPrint