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YEMEN: Tsunami damage over US $1 million - UNEP assessment

SANA, 22 February 2005 (IRIN) - The effects of December's Asian tsunami on Yemen's shores will cost more than US $1 million, according to an initial assessment conducted by the Ministry of Environment and the Environmental Emergency Unit (EEU), together with an emergency mission of the United Nation's Environment Programme (UNEP).



"We were lucky: our coasts are not populated, otherwise it would have been much worse," Abdulkhaliq al-Ghaberi, director-general of the EEU, told IRIN in the capital, Sana.



Nonetheless, the huge tidal wave has severely affected the livelihoods of the fishing communities of Socotra, a unique island, and its archipelago, 350 km south of the mainland, close to the tip of the Horn of Africa, and the coastal region of al-Mahrah governorate in the east of mainland Yemen,bordering Oman.



The tsunami hit parts of South East Asia on 26 December 2004, killing an estimated 300,000 people. Many bodies have still not been recovered.



Although the main tsunami passed to the south of Socotra, crashing into the coast of Somalia, waves of up to six metres hit Yemeni shores and washed boats up to a kilometre inland.



Of the two confirmed deaths, one was a five-year old boy on Socotra, who ran out to pick fish stranded when the sea went out prior to the main wave rushing in. In the city of Aden, the major port on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, a boatman was swept out to sea, though there waves reached only 80 cm.



However, there have been reports of up to five people killed, and al-Ghaberi told IRIN that there might have been more deaths which remain unreported.



The emergency EEU/UNEP assessment was conducted only on Socotra and in al-Mahrah, the worst affected areas. It concluded that a further assessment was required of other coastal areas and a UNEP/OCHA mission is to arrive in Yemen on 3 March.



The initial report found that in Socotra and al-Mahrah, 50 fishing boats and 69 outboard motors were destroyed and a further 108 boats were partly destroyed, though it's known that boats were also lost on the coast of Abyan governorate, east of Aden. At least 1,000 lobster and octopus traps and more than 600 nets and long lines were lost.



On shore, five cars and trucks were lost, an ice-plant was destroyed and various storage and market facilities were damaged and goods ruined, including a dried fish catch worth US $200, sacks of salt and barrels of fuel. Houses were damaged, two farms were lost to land erosion and many crops and palm trees destroyed.



The cost of the damage in al-Mahrah and Socotra totals some $935,000 and $175,000 respectively and the minister of water and environment, Dr Mohammed Lutf El-Eryani, has stated that the total cost to Yemen would be $3 million.



Yemen is not included on the list of countries suffering damage or needing help from the 2.5 billion dollars pledged for recovery efforts. The Yemeni government has no funds for compensation for those affected by the tsunami and the Yemeni people themselves are largely unaware of the extent of damage to their own country.



However, they have been responding generously to the international relief effort. So far, private donations totalling over $6 million have been made.



This is a remarkable figure as, unlike its oil-rich Gulf neighbours, Yemen is one of the world's poorest Least Developed Countries (LDC), with per capita annual income at just $510, according to the World Bank.



Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was deeply moved by the natural disaster affecting South East Asia and was one of the first Arab leaders to announce that the people should contribute to the relief effort. On 10 January a presidential order announced that everyone should donate a day's salary. This was followed on 13 January by a live TV campaign.



Khaled Afif, general manager of the Federation of Yemen Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which coordinated the fund-raising campaign with the government, explained to IRIN that "the day's salary donation was mandatory in the public sector but the private sector also reacted positively".



For example, one of the largest donors was the Hayel Saeed Anam Group, which raised funds from its employees totalling $322,580. However, many other donations were anonymous, in line with the tenets of Islam.



Afif told IRIN that the total was likely to reach $9,140,000. He expects the money raised to be given to the UN. He stressed the need to "concentrate on early warning systems, especially as Yemen and the Red Sea are in an earthquake region".

Theme (s): Early Warning, Economy, Environment, Governance, Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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