Yemen's 'Manhattan of the desert' damaged by flooding, say officials

Yemen's 'Manhattan of the desert' damaged by flooding, say officials
Yemen's 'Manhattan of the desert' damaged by flooding, say officials

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Officials have called for urgent action after the historical mud-skyscraper city of Shibam in southern Yemen was damaged by torrential rains last week.

Dating back as far as the 3rd Century, the Unesco-listed city of tight-packed multistorey mud buildings was hit with flooding and torrential rain on May 4 and then again last Monday leaving damage to dozens of towers, Hasan Eidid, the Shibam branch manager of the General Organisation for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY), told The National.

“This happens while the residents of the city are at a very critical time due to the worsening situation caused by the war,” Mr Eidid said.

“The majority of the buildings partially damaged by the recent torrential rain are those located in the southern facade of the historic city, additionally, the heavy rains caused damage to the roofs of some buildings in the city causing water leakage into the rooms.”

There is also concern for the foundations on the southern and northern sides of the old city, home to about 7,000 people.

“In addition to the new threats caused by the torrential rain, Shibam city tops the list of World Heritage sites under threat from explosions and clashes between Al Qaeda and the army since 2015,” Mr Eidid said.

He said the city is in urgent need of international help to save the Unesco World Heritage site often referred to as the “Manhattan of the Desert” and believed to be the oldest settlement in the world to use such multistorey construction.

“We need emergency funds and urgent intervention to save the buildings with significant damage before they crumble. Moreover, we need Unesco, the EU and the other funding bodies in charge to help to reconstruct the walls of the city soon and reconstruct the deteriorated infrastructure of the city,” Mr Eidid said.

Hussein Al Aidrous, the manager of Yemen’s General Authority of Antiques and Museums in the area told said that the city is under increasing risk due to climate change.

“Shibam is an ancient historic city built from mud which means the climate change will cause a direct threat to its high skyscrapers,” he said, explaining that hours of torrential rain as seen this year will cause more damage.

Much of Yemen has been inundated with rain in recent days with 13 people killed by flooding in the Red Sea city of Hodeidah.

“More than 40 residences – mostly cottages made of straw – were flooded by the rainstorm in Al Zuhra and Al Qanawis [northeast of Hodeidah] killing 10 people and dozens of cattle,” a resident from Al Zuhra said.

Residents are unlikely to have any respite as Yemen’s Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority said on Saturday night that rain would continue in coastal areas until the end of the week.

Updated: July 26, 2020 03:37 PM

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