26 Oct 2008

Death toll rises to 58 in Yemen floods

5:55 pm on 26 October 2008

Aid operations swung into higher gear in Yemen after floods killed at least 58 people and six more died from lightning strikes during two days of fierce storms.

The interior ministry, updating an earlier toll, said at least 58 people died in flooding fed by torrential downpours that hit Hadramaut and Mahara provinces on Thursday and Friday.

At least five others were reported missing in Mahara.

Four people were also killed by lightning in the southern provinces of Tayez and Lahj, and a mother and son died when struck by lightning in the Al-Mahwit region north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

But the toll could rise even further as rescue teams searched for victims who may still be trapped in homes swept by the floods and as the authorities launched an airlift to fly aid to the stricken areas.

Six aircraft took off from Sanaa on Saturday loaded with tents, food and medicine for the Hadramaut capital of Al-Mukalla and Mahara, airport officials said.

An official said other airlifts are scheduled and public and private organisations had joined ranks to help victims of the disaster.

Local authorities in Yemen said that more than 500 houses were destroyed across Hadramaut province and 3,500 families made homeless.

Flooding also caused heavy damage to roads and power and water networks.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world and its government is already struggling against a rebellion in the north, unrest in the south and an al Qaeda resurgence, while a growing number of Somali refugees stretch its resources to the limit.