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Rare cyclone makes landfall in war-ravaged Yemen, thousands flee

Cyclone Chapala has made landfall on the Arabian Sea coast of Yemen. The ongoing war in the poverty-stricken country has made preparing for and responding to the storm all the more challenging.

The tropical storm, rare for the arid region, made landfall in the provinces of Hadramawt and Shabwa in the country's southeast on Tuesday bringing winds of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour.

"The damage is enormous and we fear human losses," Minister of Fisheries Fahd Kafain, who is part of a commission set up to deal with the cyclone, told news agency AFP.

Thousands of people had fled for shelter in the region but there were no initial reports of injuries. Cars were submerged on city streets and seafront roads were badly damaged in the regional capital Mukalla, which has a population of about 300,000 and has largely been ruled by al Qaeda affiliates since April.

"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; it was a difficult night but it passed off peacefully," said Sabri Saleem, who lives in Mukalla.

There were no initial reports of injuries.

A member of the Houthi militia inspects the scene of airstrikes allegedly carried out by the Saudi-led coalition targeting a neighborhood in Sana_a, Yemen, 28 October 2015.

Yemen has been battered by war

The storm, which brewed in the Arabian Sea, had on Monday caused extensive damage on the Yemeni island of Socotra, located some 380 kilometers (238 miles) off the mainland. Dozens of houses were destroyed and hundreds of families displaced. According to the UN weather agency, the "very severe cyclonic storm" had lost strength since it made landfall and was expected to weaken during the next 12 hours.

Some 5,000 people have died in violence in Yemen since March when an alliance led by Saudi Arabia launched an airstrikes campaign against Houthi rebels and other forces tied to the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in support of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Hadi had been forced from the capital as the Iran-allied Houthis advanced. The country is facing a humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations is working to broker peace talks between the warring factions.

se/kms (Reuters, AFP)

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