Torrential rains across southwestern Yemen and the country's capital of Sanaa have triggered flashfloods and collapsed homes, killing at least 38 people over the past two days, officials said Thursday.
Scores of homes in Sanaa and the provinces of Dhamar and Ibb have completely collapsed or have been significantly damaged, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The areas are controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militias.
Yemen’s annual rainy season usually starts in May and lasts until August but this year. The Arab world’s most impoverished country has seen heavier-than-usual rains accompanied by thunderstorms.
Meanwhile, UNESCO on Thursday voiced concern over the impact of the rainfall on the Old City of Sanaa, a World Heritage site, where the Houthis said the previous day that 10 of the city's historic houses have fully collapsed and about 80 have been damaged by the rain.
The architecture in the Old City is unique, with red brick facades adorned with white gypsum molding in ornate patterns, drawings comparisons to gingerbread houses — a style that has come to symbolize Yemen’s capital. Many of the houses are still private homes and some are more than 500 years old.
In an email sent to The Associated Press, the UN agency said it was monitoring closely the situation in Sanaa, as well as in the town of Zabid, a former capital of Yemen, and the old walled city of Shibam. Along with the European Union, the UN agency has restored more than 200 historic buildings in the heart of Sanaa over the past four years but more remains to be done, it said.
In 2020, floods set off by heavy rains similarly damaged many historical houses in Sanaa's Old City and undermined conservation efforts. The preservation efforts have also been undermined in recent years by the ongoing war, UNESCO added.
“The magnitude of the needs on the ground requires further prioritization of interventions in inhabited historic houses of outstanding architectural value, which are facing substantial damages,” UNESCO said.