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The New Arab Staff

Yemen's historic Marib dam floods for first time in 34 years

Thousand of families have been affected by the flooding [Twitter]

Date of publication: 3 August, 2020

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Thousands of families, including internally displaced refugees, have lost their homes in Marib, where the historic 8th century BC dam has flooded.
Yemen's historic Marib dam flooded for the first time since it was rebuilt 34 years ago, severely destroying nearby makeshift homes of internally displaced people in the area.

The 8th century BC structure, regularly dubbed one of the world's ancient engineering wonders, was struck with torrential rain this week, with reports suggesting dangerous rise in water levels.

"The Mariib Dam started to flood for the first time since it was rebuilt in 1986 after the water level exceeded the barrier of 550 million cubic meters," Ahmed Al-Areifi, the director of the Marib Dam Project told Anadolu.

The structure, which has collapsed several times since it was first erected in the 8th century, can accommodate around 400 million cubic metres of water. 

Experts have shown growing concern over potential damage due to the flooding, which has already destroyed nearby villages and refugee camps, damaging the homes of more than 450 displaced families.

The central province of Marib is a refuge for some 750,000 Yemenis who have fled Houthi rebel offensives since the start of the war. Days of abnormally intense rains have hit 5,500 families, submerging their tents in water and mud and washing away their food aid, Yemen's official SABA news agency reported last week.

The governor of Yemen's Marib governate visited the site on Thursday and appointed a committee to aid those affected by the flooding.

More than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced since Yemen's conflict exacerbated with the Saudi-led coalition intervention in 2015, in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

The Arab world's poorest country, already devastated by conflict and malnutrition, also faces the coronavirus pandemic that its decrepit health system is ill-equipped to handle.

Most recently, torrential rain and flash floods have battered most of the country,  leaving dozens dead and destroying thousands of homes.

"The combination of coronavirus, conflict and heavy rains this year is hurting millions of Yemenis across the country," said Abdi Ismail, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Yemen.

Read more: Flooding from heavy seasonal rains leaves 16 dead in Yemen 

In southern Yemen, 33,000 displaced people who were sheltering in camps lost their tents and belongings in the floods, the ICRC reported, adding that dozens have died across the country.

In the impoverished western provinces of Hajjah and Hodeida, security officials said 23 people were killed or missing over the last 24 hours and 187 homes were destroyed.

With torrents sweeping away roads and dozens of cars, hundreds of newly displaced families in the area have become stranded without access to food.

Dirty floodwater has contaminated wells that many Yemenis rely on for water. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief the media.

A hotel marooned in muddied water in the capital, Sanaa, collapsed late Monday, killing four people and injuring three. Rescue teams are still searching for other missing people.

The devastating floods in the Arab world's poorest country have exacerbated a cholera outbreak, with 127,900 suspected cases across eight provinces since January, the World Health Organization said earlier this month.

The ICRC warned the floods have also accelerated the spread of dengue fever and malaria, as mosquitoes carrying the diseases breed in puddles.

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