Cyclone Chapala has made landfall in Yemen, bringing strong winds and years’ worth of precipitation to a war-torn region ill-equipped to handle it, BBC News is reporting.
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) November 3, 2015
On Sunday, Cyclone Chapala — roughly the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane — brought damaging wind (with gusts of up to 150 miles per hour) and rains to the remote Yemeni island of Socotra, killing at least one person. It then made landfall near the port city of Mukalla, before tracking back out into the Gulf of Aden, then making landfall once again near the city of Belhaf. Worse for the residents of Yemen than the winds were the rains brought by the cyclone; by some estimates, Cyclone Chapala could bring as much as 20 to 30 inches of rain to the region. By comparison, the desert region generally gets about four inches of rain per year, meaning that five to ten years’ worth of rain could fall in certain areas.
Making matters worse for the low-lying city of Mukulla (population: 300,000), rains brought by the cyclone are expected to flow down the nearby mountains and into the city, bringing even more flooding and perhaps devastating mudslides.
One unidentified man said that residents were fleeing the city as fast as they could.
“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.”
Yemen sits at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, with the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden to the South, and the Arabian Sea to the southeast.
— Svein T veitdal (@tveitdal) November 3, 2015
The areas hardest hit by Cyclone Chapala have a combined population of about 1.8 million, with around 125,000 thousand of those people being refugees or people otherwise displaced by war and violence in the region.
Parts of Yemen, including cyclone-ravaged Mukalla, are controlled by al-Qaeda, which is in no way prepared to deal with natural disasters — although the terrorist organization did attempt to make a show of it, according to reporter Iona Craig.
“There is no state in Mukalla. There was basically no preparedness. al-Qaeda posted pictures in the hours before landfall of a team of rescue vehicles. In practice those won’t have been much help in floods.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, is doing what little it can to help. In a statement, the agency said it’s sending trauma kits for patients and fuel for ambulances and hospitals to the region. Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative for Yemen, said that the agency is cooperating with local authorities in the area to “provide a timely response.”
Cyclone Chapala is expected to dissipate as it moves over Yemen’s mountains.
[Image via Shutterstock / Photobank gallery]