Yemen: Flash flooding destroys homes, kills dozens

News and Press Release
Originally published
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

SANAA, 5 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - The death toll from flash floods that have swamped Yemen in the last two days has risen to 25, according to the defence ministry.

"Heavy rains and flash floods over the previous two days have killed 25 people, including 12 children and four women, in addition to 15 injuries," the ministry's website noted. The ministry site added that heavy rains also destroyed 60 homes and caused considerable damage to scores of others. Livestock and roads were also affected.

Mohammed al-Shaba'an, head of the Crisis Management Unit at the interior ministry's Civil Defence Department, complained of the lack of solid information on the extent of the damage. "We don't have any official reports on the flood damage, so I can't be definite about the numbers of casualties," al-Shaba'an said. "Although I know that several houses were destroyed in the governorate of Hodiedah," some 270 km to the west of the capital Sana'a, he added.

The defence ministry's website noted that five people were killed and some 30 houses destroyed in Hodiedah, which it said was the most affected region. People were also reportedly killed in a number of other governorates, including Sana'a, Thamar, Taiz and Sa'adah.

Geologists have repeatedly warned of possible landslides during the rainy season, which usually lasts from March to September. "Natural erosion of the earth and mountains is likely to cause landslides in the mountainous areas, which cover most of Yemen," said Dr Adnan Baraheem, a geology professor at Sana'a University. Baraheem added that 20 geologists from the National Geology Authority were currently conducting geological surveys of areas where landslides are most common.

According to officials from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Yemen is vulnerable to a number of natural disasters, especially floods. "We've noticed that, since the beginning of the rainy season, a lot of accidents happened," said UNDP programme officer in Sana'a, Waheeb al-Eryani.

Al-Eryani added that the government had set up a disaster management unit within the interior ministry's Civil Defence Department, and that UNDP had established a programme aimed at enhancing the government's ability to manage disaster-relief operations.

Meanwhile, the Aviation Authority has warned that more heavy rains could be expected in several governorates.

Last August, flash floods killed 12 people in Yemen. The worst rains to hit the country in recent history fell in 1996, which resulted in hundreds of casualties and property damage worth an estimated US $1.2 billion.