Cyclone Chapala Slams Yemen Thousands Flee

10 years of rain in 2 days; 22ft high waves; 3 killed on Yemen’s Socotra.

A rare tropical cyclone has slammed into Yemen, triggering heavy flooding and causing ‘enormous’ damage, a senior official said Tuesday.

Packing winds of more than 100km per hour, Cyclone Chapala made landfall in the southeastern provinces of Hadramawt and Shabwa, Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafain said.

“The damage is enormous and we fear human losses,” said the minister, part of a commission set up to deal with the cyclone that brewed in the Arabian Sea.

The storm earlier wreaked havoc on the island of Socotra located 350km off the Yemeni mainland.

More than 200 people were injured and dozens of houses and hamlets were severely damaged or washed away, said Salem Zaher, mayor of the island’s main district Hadibo.

Images posted on social media showed heavy floods hitting the streets of Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt.

Cars were half-submerged in muddy water while seafront roads were badly damaged by high waves.

“The rainfall from Chapala is far beyond anything ever witnessed in this arid area which is not used to cyclones,” the UN weather agency said on Monday.

The ‘very severe cyclonic storm’ brought maximum sustained winds of 130km per hour with gusts of up to 145km per hour when it made landfall, it said in a joint update on Tuesday with India’s meterological agency.

But the cyclone had since lost strength and was expected to weaken into a tropical depression during the next 12 hours, it added.

Oman downgraded its state of alert, saying the cyclone had moved westwards and would not directly hit the sultanate.

However, the Omani meteorological agency warned that waves as high as three metres (10 feet) were still expected to hit the shores of Dhofar and Al Wusta provinces.

The cyclone, with hurricane-force winds, made landfall on Yemen’s Arabian Sea coast on Tuesday, flooding the country’s fifth-largest city Mukalla and sending thousands of people fleeing for shelter.

Officials and meteorologists say the storm is the most intense in decades in the arid country.

In the provincial capital Mukalla, water submerged cars on city streets and caused dozens of families to flee to a hospital for fear of rock slides.

Residents said the seafront promenade and many homes had been destroyed by the cyclone, and officials in the dry hinterland province of Shabwa said about 6,000 people had moved to higher ground.

“The wind knocked out power completely in the city and people were terrified. Some residents had to leave their homes and escape to higher areas where flooding was less; it was a difficult night but it passed off peacefully,” said Sabri Saleem, who lives in Mukalla.

There were no initial reports of injuries.

The cyclone first hit the remote Yemeni island of Socotra, killing three people and displacing thousands.

Meteorological agencies predicted Chapala would hit land around Balhaf, site of Yemen’s liquefied natural gas terminal, and weakening as it advanced towards the capital Sanaa in the country’s north.

The facility has been mostly shuttered since the start of a war in March.

It was not immediately clear if the terminal, once a lifeline for Yemen’s economy, suffered damage.

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