24 October, 2008

Hadhramout: Travel Alert!

Hadhramaut Weather
Traveling in and around Hadhramaut is not safe and can be dangerous, at the moment. For the last three days, it has been raining continuously in most parts of Hadhramaut, Mahra and Shabwa; at times, the rain is heavy but for the most part, it's continuously drizzling. This is no good at all.

People, especially Bedouins, celebrate when it rains; as that means water. Water: which in such a dry place like here, is so precious and a luxury to many. But when it rains this heavily and so continuously, it causes only problems; sometimes causing extensive damage and many times - it takes lives.

With the earth here not that porous, torrents of floods are now sweeping in several places; as of today: several bridges, houses cultivated lands - have been swept away by the floods. Many roads are now impassable; including the main road from Al Mukalla to the Wady, inland. Within the Wady itself, many villages and towns have now been cut off from each other by flooded or swept away roads. As the rains are forecast to continue for the next few days, there will undoubtedly be more destruction; very hopefully, no lives will be lost.

Still, this is not as bad as it could have been - had the cyclone that was building up in the Arabian sea not slowed down when it hit land; had the cyclone hit hard, that would have been devastating and deadly. Yemen, like most developing countries, simply does not have the facilities or the means to deal with a cyclone.

Any one traveling around, must take extreme care. It's very easy to be swept away by floods; most people who lose their lives from floods, are those who are ignorant about what it can do here, or those who are reckless. It's most advisable to listen to what elderly locals say; they know best. Wherever one is, if the locals advise against traveling further or in a certain direction, it's best and safe to listen. Never cross any flooded road however still the water seems or safe it looks - unless many people are already crossing that road. Never park or stay long in a valley; try to keep on upper grounds.

For more on the weather in and around Al Mukalla, go here, here, here, here or here.

Postscript: very sadly - this just came in. Hadhramout has been declared a disaster zone. Unfortunately it seems the damage will be extensive and devastating. Even without the cyclone. With most houses in Wady Hadhramout made of mud bricks, which easily melt, the longer the rains last, the heavier the damage and the more loss of lives - there will be.

To make it worse, it's the fertile valleys in Wady Hadhramout that are densely populated; valleys that all the water that fall on the highlands, flow to when it rains. Insha Allah keir.