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05 December 2023

Cyclone Chapala sweeps away Socotra villages: eyewitness

The last post by Mohammed Alraqbi shows residents reporting their homes that have been damaged by Cyclone Chapala. (Facebook)

By Bindu Rai

Waves that swept 70 metres inland and destroyed everything in its wake, is one of the many tragic stories emerging from the battered island of Socotra, which continues to face the wrath of Cyclone Chapala as it tracks westwards to make landfall late Monday on mainland Yemen.

Island resident Mohammed Alarqabi, whose bio reads as an employee of Socotra Environment Office, gave eyewitness accounts of the devastation on this peaceful, which has been witnessed already in imagery of flash floods and gale winds.

Summarising the past 48 hours in a series of Facebook posts, Alarqabi reported villages have been swept away with the rising tide and the strong winds, even as the young dwellers, along with security forces, evacuated the residents of October 14 Avenue in Hadiboh to nearby schools as they await rescue.

Alarqabi has also sent up an appeal for relief efforts to reach the northern coast of Socotra, which saw waves sweep 70 metres inland, with several key roads cut off in the Kalenica governate.

One of his last posts on November 1 simply stated: “Getting out of homes has become difficult because of the heavy rains, the strong winds and the flooding. Water has flooded the streets. Tree branches are everywhere. There is panic everywhere. Pray for us.”

That was one of his last posts; ‘Emirates 24|7’ has reached out to him, but is unable to make contact at this time.

Crowdfunding appeal

Even as relief efforts are underway from neighbouring Oman, one resident of Yemen has set up a crowdfunding appeal for funds to reconstruct the homes destroyed in floods and wind speeds that reached over 250kmph.

The appeal, which was set up on Monday by Sami Ahmed, who states is a resident of Aden, Yemen, says in his post: “I have decided to head to Socotra Island as soon as possible in order to provide immediate assistance to those in need.

“As I am writing this fundraising description, my friends that I know in Socotra are informing me that 100 houses have been destroyed completely, more than 218 families are homeless, a large number of people are missing and all roads are unseen because of the sea water flood caused by Chapala Hurricane.”

He continues: “The hurricane is still hitting strong on the island; it is a natural disaster that the country isn’t prepared enough to face.

"The funds from this fundraiser will be spent on buying blankets and sleeping mats, providing safe drinking water and food, and trying to help in every way we can. There are over 170,000 people facing Hurricane Chapala without a helping hand.”

Latest satellite imagery indicates Chapala is currently centred over the western Arabian Sea, about 450km away from the Oman coastline, with surface winds reaching nearly 170kmph.