Yemen’s Socotra island hit by deadly hurricane
A second powerful cyclone has hit the Yemeni island of Socotra with hurricane-force winds on Sunday, killing six people, wounding four others, and forcing thousands to flee.
The latest deaths since the cyclone made landfall on Sunday “include two women, while three other people have gone missing and dozens were injured,” said the official who spoke to AFP by telephone from Socotra.
“Most of the victims died when their homes collapsed,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The storm, given the name Megh by meteorologists, comes less than a week after Cyclone Chapala, which resulted in the deaths of at least 10 civilians, and injured and displaced a third of the island’s population.
Chapalla’s fierce winds and torrential rains have triggered flash floods in Socotra – around 380 kilometers south of Yemen’s coast – and the mainland.
Amateur pictures and videos on social media, which could not be immediately verified, showed water gushing through the streets of the island’s provincial capital Hadibu.
“Cyclone Megh is several times worse than Chapala because it is passing directly over Socotra,” Socotra-based environmental official Mohammed Alarqbi told Reuters, adding that the person killed was a woman in her forties whose home collapsed on her.
“The material damage is also worse than before, as a larger number of homes have been destroyed and 5,000 more displaced people have fled the northern shores of the island to schools, universities and hospitals,” he added.
However, a full death and damage toll cannot yet be confirmed, UNESCO World Heritage Centre official Nada al-Hassan told Al Arabiya News.
“We are waiting for the final assessment, but the most important thing right now is the humanitarian support, which the Saudi King Salman Center and the UAE’s Khalifa foundation are offering,” said Hassan.
The island, which was recognized by the UNESCO as a world natural heritage site in 2008, is home to plant species, reptile species and land snail species that are not found anywhere else in the world.
“The cyclone destroyed a lot of trees that are only found in Socotra. UNESCO is offering technical support for the island by sending fuel, because people are destroying the trees to keep warm,” she added.
Sadek al-Saar, a former tourism advisor at Yemen’s embassy in Paris, told Al Arabiya News that Socotra was famous for its rare habitat.
“Tourists came from all over the world to explore the island because of the rare plant species that are only found on the island,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s mainland is also at risk of Cyclone Megh hitting its shores. The storm is expected to hit Yemen’s coast east city of Aden on Tuesday.
Aid efforts in Yemen are made more difficult by a seven-month war between the Houthi militias – who control the capital Sanaa – and forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government of Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, who is backed by the Saudi-led coalition.
Planes carrying food and tents from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, have arrived on the island in recent days.