Powerful cyclone kills 3 on Yemeni island, heads for Qaeda-run city

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ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - A rare tropical cyclone packing hurricane-force winds lashed the Yemeni island of Socotra on Monday, killing three people and injuring dozens, residents and officials said, as it headed for an Al Qaeda-controlled town on the mainland.

Amateur pictures and videos on social media, which could not be immediately verified, showed torrents of water washing through the provincial capital Hadibu's streets.

"Three people were killed, around 100 have been injured and hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes in coastal regions for the mountains," said a local official, without elaborating on the causes of death.

Situated in the Arabian Sea and slightly larger than Majorca or Rhode Island, isolated Socotra is home to hundreds of exotic plant species found nowhere else on earth. Its around 50,000 residents speak their own language.

See photos of the storm:

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Cyclone Chapala hits the Middle East
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Powerful cyclone kills 3 on Yemeni island, heads for Qaeda-run city
This image captured on Oct. 31, 2015 from the International Space Station and posted on the Twitter account of astronaut Scott Kelly shows a tropical cyclone off the coast of Oman. The rare and rapidly intensifying cyclone killed one person and injured nine Sunday on the remote Yemeni island of Socotra as it moved toward the Yemeni mainland, local security officials said. The officials said Cyclone Chapala seriously damaged or destroyed at least 20 homes on the island, where trees have been uprooted and fishing boats sank. (Scott Kelly, NASA via AP)
Tropical Cyclone Chapala batters Mukalla, Yemen, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. The day before, the rare and rapidly intensifying cyclone killed one person and injured nine Sunday on the remote Yemeni island of Socotra as it moved toward the Yemeni mainland, local security officials said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Bazahier)
Tropical Cyclone Chapala batters Mukalla, Yemen, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. The day before, the rare and rapidly intensifying cyclone killed one person and injured nine Sunday on the remote Yemeni island of Socotra as it moved toward the Yemeni mainland, local security officials said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Bazahier)
This satellite image captured by NASA on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2015 shows Tropical Cyclone Chapala, is now located approximately 209 nautical miles east northeast of Socotra Island, Yemen. Chapala is expected to make landfall over eastern Yemen between the late evening hours of Monday and early Tuesday. (NASA via AP)
This satellite image captured by NOAA on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2015 shows Tropical Cyclone Chapala, it nears the Arabian peninsula. Chapala is expected to make landfall over eastern Yemen between the late evening hours of Monday and early Tuesday. (NOAA via AP)
This satellite image captured by NASA on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2015 shows Tropical Cyclone Chapala, is now located approximately 209 nautical miles east northeast of Socotra Island, Yemen. Chapala is expected to make landfall over eastern Yemen between the late evening hours of Monday and early Tuesday. (NASA via AP)
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Also cut off politically from mainland Yemen by a seven-month war there between Iran-allied fighters and a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, its impoverished residents are not likely to receive prompt aid.

The U.S. Navy's Pearl Harbor-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center said the storm, named Chapala, had reached maximum gusts of 240 km (150 miles) per hour, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane. Yemeni officials said it was the most powerful storm the mostly arid and hot country had experienced in decades.

The centre projected the cyclone would make landfall on the mainland just west of the restive port city of Mukalla, which has been run by a tribal council and Al Qaeda militants since the army and government institutions withdrew in April. [ID:nL6N0X104Z]

Residents there worried that the power vacuum would mean no authorities were in a position to deal with the storm damage.

"The sea water level has risen by 9 meters and has destroyed the Mukalla seafront," said resident Muhammed Ba Zuhair.

"Many people have left there homes and are seeking refuge in schools. No relief or aid efforts are under way by either the tribal council or Al Qaeda, and the situation is really bad."

(Reporting By Mohammed Mukhashaf, Mohammed Ghobari and Noah Browning; editing by John Stonestreet)

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