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Cyclone tears through Yemeni island Socotra

A state of emergency is declared on the island as Oman and mainland Yemen brace for the worsening storm to make landfall on Friday
People walk through flood water as they evacuate from Socotra (Screengrab/AFP)

Hundreds of people have been evacuated and at least 17 reported missing on Socotra as the Yemeni island was hit by a cyclone on Thursday.

Cyclone Mekuno is expected to make landfall in Oman and mainland Yemen on Friday, with weather experts expecting the cyclone to rise from category one to category two.

'Socotra is a disaster province due to human and material damage at all levels and requires urgent aid'

- Rajeh Badi, government spokesman

Yemen’s government has declared a state of emergency on the strategic and ecologically diverse island, which lies between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Torrential winds and rain have left several villages flooded and capsised many boats.

The 17 missing people had been in two boats and three vehicles that had been sunk or swept away by the storm, according to Socotra Governor Ramzi Mahrous.

"The coastal areas were submerged by floods causing heavy damage to homes," Mahrous said, adding that more than 10 villages in Socotra's south and east had been cut off.

Fisheries Minister Fahad Kafin said rescue attempts had saved four people from one of the sunken boats, while floodwater was responsible for sweeping away vehicles.

This November 9, 2015 NASA satellite photo shows Tropical Cyclone Megh in the Gulf of Aden. Another cyclone made landfall in war-ravaged Yemen's Socotra island November 9, causing panic as a minister posted an "urgent appeal" to save
He said some 150 families had been trapped in their homes by floods before being evacuated to government facilities.

People were seen fleeing through flooded streets, often carrying children.

"Socotra is a disaster province due to human and material damage at all levels and requires urgent aid," Rajeh Badi, a Yemeni government spokesman, told state news agency Saba.

He called on international relief organisations and the Saudi-led international coalition battling the Houthi rebels in Yemen to come to the island’s aid.

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi called Mahrous and promised Socotra aid.

Another kind of storm

Socrotra is currently embroiled in another kind of storm, as tensions between the Yemeni government and the United Arab Emirates over the presence of Emirati troops on the island recently reached a head.

Facing accusations of colonial designs, the UAE, which fights in the Saudi-led coalition, began last week to pull its troops out of Socotra. Saudi forces are expected to take their place as part of the agreement.

The Emirati presence on the island began in 2015 as a relief effort after a similar cyclone hit Socotra.

Since 2015, Yemen has suffered under a devastating war, as the internationally backed government and its allies in the coalition battle the Iran-aligned Houthis. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the war so far.

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Socotra has broadly been spared the fighting, however areas such as south Yemen, where the cyclone is due to hit next, have been affected by famine and cholera in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Omani authorities said they are busy taking necessary precautions as Cyclone Mekuno heads toward the Gulf Arab country.

Oman’s state news agency said authorities had evacuated hospitals in Dhofar province and areas along the Yemeni border, and the police and army are on alert.

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