OCHA Flash Update #1 - Tropical Cyclone Sagar | 19 May 2018
A tropical cyclone formed in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and northern Somalia on 16 May 2018. The cyclone system caused heavy rains along the coast of Puntland on 17 May. Flash flooding was reported in the Bari region, which were not limited to seasonal riverbeds. The road linking Bossaso and points south has reportedly been affected. There are also reports of some fishing boats having been washed away by waves off the coast of Sanaag region, which along with Sool are disputed between Somaliland and Puntland. The two authorities have been engaged in an armed standoff in Sool that had displaced almost 10,000 people prior to the storms arrival, further complicating an already complex humanitarian picture. By 18 May, the cyclone had gained strength, reaching tropical storm-wind levels and assigned the name Tropical Cyclone Sagar. Heavy rains are projected for the escarpment and plateau of Somaliland.
Cyclone Sagar is expected to make landfall along the coastline of Somaliland during the afternoon of 19 May. Rains intensified on 18 May in most parts of Puntland and into Somaliland, with reprieve only expected on 21 May. Flash floods and strong winds will affect the two states during this time, according to the FAO-managed Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM). Somaliland and Puntland have experienced protracted drought dating back to Somaliland’s original drought appeal issued on 10 August 2015, leaving them particularly prone to flash flooding due to massive downpours.
Humanitarian impact and needs
Authorities and humanitarians are closely monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Puntland and Somaliland. In Puntland State, heavy rainfall was observed in the northern region of Bari, with Bareeda, Caluula, Murcanyo, Gumbax, and some parts of Xaabo being amongst the worst affected areas. Around 35 houses and 15 small boats were destroyed, while 56 camels, nearly 1,260 goats and sheep and 19 donkeys died. In the ancient coastal town of Lasqoray, houses in Habarshiro and Ceel Buh were also affected by flash flooding. Huge ocean waves were experienced in coastal areas, with most of the affected people displaced or moved to higher ground. In Bossaso, an estimated 220 improvised shelters belonging to internally displaced people in Tawakal, were washed away. Some 30 boats were also destroyed in Caluula and another 20 small boats were destroyed at the Bossaso Seaport. Two deaths and one injury were reported at Labo Wanlay, a bridge situated approximately 40km south of Bossaso. In Iskushuban, a number of farms and water facilities were damaged and washed away by the heavy rainfall. Qardo and others towns were reportedly inundated by flash flooding.
Heavy rains and strong winds have been reported in the coastal areas of Sanaag and Somaliland, according to reports received on the morning of 19 May. In Berber town, humanitarians reported one death and one serious injury after the storm destroyed homes. Some 125 families whose shelters were flooded were evacuated to nearby schools by the local authorities, with the support of the Somaliland Red Crescent Society. The affected people received blankets, sleeping mats, biscuits and water. In the village of Ceel Sheekh, some 15 shelters were also destroyed, with the communities fleeing to higher ground. There are, however, concerns regarding the fate of over 150 families living in the areas surrounding the town. In Bulaxaar village, in the Berbera district, the storm hit in the morning of 19 May, and a number of affected people were evacuated to higher ground, but an unknown number of people has been reported missing. Humanitarians also reported that communication with Lughaya district was disrupted when a telecommunication tower was destroyed by the storm. Authorities and humanitarians will continue to monitor the situation. As of 18 May, more than 1.3 million in Awdal, Sanaag, Togdheer and Woqooyi Galbeed were estimated to be at risk of the tropical storm, according to the WFP-led Automated Disaster Analysis and Mapping (ADAM). Similar events in Somalia, the most recent being in Puntland in late 2013, have resulted in the loss of lives, crops and livestock and the destruction of property and infrastructure.
Humanitarian coordination and response
To minimize the potential impact of the storm, authorities in the two states, coordinated by HADMA in Puntland and NADFOR in Somaliland, are raising awareness through radio broadcasts and mobile telecommunication companies operating in areas that are likely to be affected. In some locations, such as in Lughaya in Awdal region of Somaliland, the mayor and his team have been raising awareness in the town, including in IDP settlements, urging people to move from the coastal areas to higher ground. The mayor also requested the support of the military at Gerissa, to help move people from the town to higher ground. In Lughaya and Zaylac districts, the majority of the people living in low-lying areas were reportedly evacuated to higher ground by the local authorities, with support from humanitarians. The residents of Zaylac district were evacuated to the villages of Dokhoshi, Jidhi and Ceelgaal. Procurement of shelter and non-food items for the affected populations is underway. An emergency committee in Zaylac district has pre-positioned vehicles provided by the Somaliland coast guard, the police and the local business community to help people move to safer areas. Authorities in Puntland and Somaliland have urged all stakeholders to be on standby to assist the affected populations.
Funds to support response in the immediate aftermath of the storm are extremely limited as Somalia has swung from a protracted drought that left 5.4m people in need at the start of the year to record rainfall in the south of the country resulting in historic levels of flooding. The humanitarian consequences of the military standoff in Sool between Somaliland and Puntland are also expected to require resources. Despite the multitude of crises, the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2018 for Somalia has received only $377m of the $1.5 billion appeal launched in January.
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