Yemen flooding kills 14, washes away houses

A Yemeni child plays in a flooded street in the southern city of Aden. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2020

Yemen flooding kills 14, washes away houses

  • The largest death toll was recorded in the western province of Hodeidah, where 13 people died and more than 35 houses in three districts were destroyed
  • Heavy rains also hit the capital Sanaa, causing floods that affected many residential areas

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy rains and flash flooding hit almost all Yemeni provinces in the last couple of days, killing at least 14 people and washing away dozens of houses, local media and local officials said on Sunday.

The largest death toll was recorded in the western province of Hodeidah, where 13 people died and more than 35 houses in three districts were destroyed. 

Images on social media showed floods washing away houses, farms and cars in poor districts of Hodeidah. Flooding killed one person and ruined houses and farms in the province of Ibb, local media and residents said. 

Heavy rains also hit the capital Sanaa, causing floods that affected many residential areas. “The damage in all affected areas is huge,” Salem Al-Khanbashi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister, told Arab News. 

The flooding damaged power lines in the southern province of Lahj and wiped out farms in Hadramout and Abyan, he said, adding that the National Emergency Committee had convened to discuss how to handle the damage and offer urgent assistance to the affected areas. 

“The international donors and organizations should urgently help us. We cannot handle this problem on our own.” 

On Saturday the country’s National Meteorological Center renewed its warning to the public to avoid flood courses and to avoid traveling this week, predicting a new wave of heavy rains, strong winds and flash floods in many provinces.

Last week a downpour that lasted for several hours ruined more than 90 houses in the historical city of Shibam, which is entirely made of mud, prompting residents and local officials into appealing for international help to rescue the city from collapse. Yemenis are also bracing themselves for further havoc in the form of a new locust invasion, as rainstorms create ideal breeding conditions.  

Yemen has been embroiled in conflict since late 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthis seized control of Sanaa and expanded across the country. The fighting has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and devastated the national economy.

Despite the torrential floods, fighting raged on the main frontline across Yemen on Saturday and Sunday in the provinces of Hodeidah, Al-Bayda and Marib. 

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said that army troops and allied tribesmen liberated a number of locations in Qania, in the central province of Al-Bayda. 

Brig. Ahmed Al-Nageh, the commander of 117 Infantry Brigade in Al-Bayda, said government forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes, engaged in heavy fighting with the Houthis in Qania, adding that the warplanes targeted Houthi military personnel and equipment in Al-Sabel and Masouda mountains. Clashes were reported in Hodeida, where government forces pushed back Houthi incursions in Durihimi and Jah districts, local media reported.

Yemen is also battling the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed 474 people and infected 1,674 in government-controlled areas, according to the latest figures from the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee. 

Local and international health experts believe that the actual number of coronavirus patients is five times higher than the official figures.

Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

Updated 24 min 1 sec ago

Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

  • Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the Gemmayzeh district came days after Macron took a tour of the same street last week
  • Students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives and provide emergency support

BEIRUT: Arriving in Lebanon after last week’s deadly Beirut blast, US envoy David Hale bypassed politicians to head straight to a hard-hit neighborhood where young volunteers are helping people abandoned by their state.
At the volunteer hub dubbed the “Base Camp,” there is a “focus on getting things done,” Hale told a press conference after his tour.
He contrasted the hive of activity to the “dysfunctional governance and empty promises” of Lebanon’s political leaders, who face public outrage over the explosion of a vast stock of ammonium nitrate stored for years at Beirut’s port.
Volunteer efforts “could not only be tapped to rebuild Beirut but (also) to undertake necessary reforms that will bring the kind of transformation that is necessary for Lebanon,” Hale said.
In the wake of the August 4 explosion of a the huge chemical store that laid waste to whole Beirut neighborhoods, students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives, provide emergency support and start to rebuild.
Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the blast-hit Gemmayzeh district came days after French President Emmanuel Macron took a tour of the same street last Thursday, as well as meeting Lebanese leaders.
But while Macron was welcomed as a savior, it was clear that the heroes of the moment were the volunteers.
“I don’t know why (Hale) would do that second step and go to meet politicians,” said Wassim Bou Malham, 33, who leads a database management team at the Base Camp.
“The aid is happening here, the data collection is happening here, the cleaning is happening here, the reconstruction is happening here,” he told AFP.
Wearing face masks and neon vests, volunteers sounded like international experts as they explained how they were cleaning up their government’s mess.
In fluent English, they described 3D mapping operations, data collection and relief efforts organized since the cataclysmic blast.
Bou Malham, who spoke with Hale during the tour, is not a data expert but picked up useful experience managing client databases for two of Beirut’s biggest nightclubs.
After the blast tore through the city, wounding 6,500 people and displacing 300,000 from their homes, his skills became vital for the aid effort.
The digitised database developed by Bou Malham and his team of volunteers is now critical for sorting and delivering aid to thousands of blast survivors.
“We haven’t seen any government official or representative actually come in here and ask us if we need anything,” he said.
“It’s so funny that David Hale is the first.”
It is not only in the Base Camp that the state has been thin on the ground.
In the first hours after the explosion, civil defense teams were vastly outnumbered by young volunteers flooding the streets to help.
By the next day, the latter had set up a camp where they offered food, medicine, temporary shelter and repair services to thousands of blast victims, in partnership with several non-governmental groups.
Operations have continued to expand since.
A Base Camp relief hotline received more than 200 calls in the first two hours. Volunteers have assessed the damage to around 1,200 homes and installed at least 600 wooden doors.
“The work is going to speak for itself,” said Bushra, a 37-year-old volunteer.
Simmering anger against Lebanon’s leaders has flared since the blast, which appears to have been caused by years of state corruption and negligence.
With 171 people dead, it is widely seen as the most tragic manifestation yet of the rot at the core of the country’s political system.
Western donors too are fed up with Lebanon’s barons, who have for years resisted reforms demanded by the international community.
In a joint statement released after an international donor conference organized by France in the wake of the disaster, world leaders called for aid to be delivered directly to the Lebanese people.
USAID acting administrator, John Barsa, said at the time that American help “is absolutely not going to the government.”
USAID “will increase its financial support to civil society groups in Lebanon by 30 percent to $6.627 million,” Barsa said in a press briefing on Thursday.
At the volunteer camp in Gemmayzeh, it was clear that funding would be put to good use.
Ziad Al-Zein, arrives before volunteers start their shifts at 9:00 am to ensure the camp is clean and secure.
The 33-year-old was among the first groups of volunteers clearing debris in Gemmayzeh.
“We are not speacialists in crisis management or catastophe management. We are learning things as we go,” he said.
“There is no state,” he added. “We will not abandon our fellow Lebanese in these conditions.”