Death toll mounts in
Hundreds of families homeless, trapped in flood waters; scores missing
The Associated Press,
SHIBAM, Yemen - Mohammed bin Gohar saw an old woman drowning in flood waters from a deadly tropical storm in southern Yemen, but couldn't save her. He was carrying his two kids and running with his wife to escape the deluge.
"The only thing I could do was hug my kids and run away with my wife as water reached our chest," the 33-year-old said Saturday. "I heard people screaming from houses just few steps from my house."
The death toll, now at 58 according to the government, could rise since scores of people are still missing and hundreds of families are homeless or trapped by the flood waters, said Hamid el-Kharashi, a police chief in the remote southern
Damage from the storm, which first struck Thursday, has been extensive in Hadramut
At least 1,700 houses in the southern provinces of Mouhra and Hadramut alone have been destroyed,
Ahmed Salem's house was located in the ancient fortress city of
Wet and exhausted,
"I lived in this house all my life,"
Karam Basalamah, a 60-year-old farmer in Shibam, blamed local government corruption for exacerbating the damage.
"Local officials authorized the building of houses on the flood plain," he said. "Now waters are diverted into the town, get trapped inside houses and cause them to collapse."
Most of the residents of Shibam are well-off merchants who work in
Yaslam bin Tarki, in his mid-60s, said he was stuck in a bed flooded with water in his one-story mud house for four hours because arthritis prevented him from getting up.
"I was almost missing until God sent me my neighbors to rescue me," he said.
Television footage showed Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh moving from one devastated city to another. But most people affected by the disaster said they were receiving little help from the government.
"Officials disappeared, and they won't show up today or in a hundred years," bin Tarki said.
Others were determined to get government assistance.
"I am not leaving until the president comes and helps me," said a 65-year-old woman who identified herself only as Safiya, sitting teary-eyed in front of her destroyed house in Shibam.
The residents of Shibam were not alone in their misery. An Associated Press reporter riding in a helicopter saw the whole town of
Elsewhere in Hadramut, some 18 tourists trapped in a city called Ayfan were rescued by helicopter and transferred to the Yemeni capital of San'a, according to the government.
On Friday, Mouhra deputy governor, Salem Numier, said floods had cut off main roads and caused power outages. There was also a shortage of food and medicine, he said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.