Yemen

Yemen: Rescue operations continue for landslide victims

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SANA, 3 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Rescue operations are ongoing for the victims of last week's landslide in the remote village of al-Dhafeer, some 50 km west of the capital, Sana.

Efforts to recover the bodies of victims have been hampered by the presence of enormous boulders that have prevented the use of proper digging machinery, according to Hashim al-Zein, country representative of the World Health Organization.

"We're facing a lot of difficulty in pulling the dead from destroyed houses," he said.

The governor of Sana has forecast that the search-and-rescue process would last several more days.

On 29 December, a rocky hill overlooking al-Dhafeer collapsed onto the village, destroying about 15 houses. Since then, around 30 other families have fled their homes in fear of further landslides.

Geologists are still investigating the cause of the natural disaster.

The death toll from the incident has increased to 65, according to Yemeni officials. But the Yemeni Red Crescent Association (YRCA) has stated that only 16 bodies have been recovered from the rubble so far.

The total number of dead is expected to increase to 90 by the time rescue operations are concluded, according to al-Zein.

Despite the tragedy, residents are trying to get on with their lives.

"We don't have any serious problem concerning displaced people," said Waheeb al-Eryani, programme officer at UNDP office in Sana. "Most of the people in houses smashed by the avalanche were killed, and those who were forced to evacuate their homes refused to live in tents set up by the government, preferring to live with relatives."

Al-Eryani insisted that the incident did not represent a "humanitarian crisis" per se, and that the government was in control of the situation. He went on to note that aid agencies were providing support to residents of the village, the population of which is estimated at 7,000.

Al-Eryani also noted that some residents were asking for compensation from the government.

"These people need psychological support and doctors to stay with them, particularly those who lost their families," he said, adding that hopes of finding more survivors were fading.

[ENDS]

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