At least 15 people have died in parts of central and southern Yemen after heavy summer rains triggered flash flooding, sweeping away dozens of cars and wrecking homes in the crisis-hit country, according to local officials and residents.
Torrential rains destroyed several homes in Jibla, some 6km from the central city of Ibb, with at least five people confirmed dead and several others still unaccounted for, Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday, citing reports by local residents.
Hours earlier, monsoon rains flooded a vital road linking Yemen’s third largest city of Taiz with al-Maqatira district, killing at least 10 people, said the government-run news agency Saba, quoting an unnamed official. Another eight people were missing and feared dead.
Mohammed al-Rumim, a journalist based in Taiz, told Al Jazeera that the bodies of 10 people had been recovered with search efforts for the missing still ongoing well into the evening.
Aid agencies such as the Red Cross and the World Health Organization have only been able to deliver food and medical supplies to Taiz via small side roads after Houthi fighters laid siege to the city of more than 200,000 people.
“We haven’t seen rainfall like this in 20 years,” Ali al-Kubati, a resident of al-Maqatira, told Anadolu news agency.
“Trucks and cars have been swept away by the floodwaters and several people have lost their lives,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s weather presenter Rob McElwee said parts of Yemen enjoy a rainy summer but heavy downpours landing on areas with no drainage and rubble could explain the flash flooding and mounting death toll.
Large parts of Yemen have been reduced to rubble after a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries launched a military campaign against Houthi rebels in March 2015 – whom they see as a proxy for Iran – after the fighters seized vast tracts of territory, including the capital, Sanaa.
The war has killed at least 10,000 people, displaced another two million and unleashed hunger and disease in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Aid organisations have warned that the rainy season could exacerbate a cholera epidemic that has infected more than half a million people and killed nearly 2,000.