Houses in Sanaa's UNESCO-listed old city collapse under heavy rain

Local Editor

ouses in Yemen's UNESCO-listed Old City of Sanaa are collapsing under heavy rains, as months of floods and storms across the country continue to kill, displace and increase disease transmission in the war-weary country.

The distinctive red and white mud brick houses of Sanaa's historic neighbourhoods, which date from before the 11th century, have long been under threat from disrepair and the violence of war.

Muhammad Ali al-Talhi's house partially collapsed on Friday as heavy rain battered Sanaa, leaving the six women and six children of his family with nowhere to live.

"Everything we had is buried," he said surrounded by ancient debris and mud, appealing for help to find shelter.

Aqeel Saleh Nassar, deputy head of the Historic Cities Preservation Authority, said citizens today do not maintain buildings as in the past, leading to cracks and weakness.

Around 5,000 of the towering red buildings in the old city have leaky roofs and 107 have partially collapsed roofs, he said.

The Authority has been working with UNESCO and other funds to preserve some.

This year's exceptionally heavy rains, which began mid-April and generally last into early September, have added to Yemen's woes.

After five years of a war which has killed more than 100,000 people, 80% of the population relies on humanitarian aid and millions live on the brink of famine.

On top of the new coronavirus, which is believed to be spreading largely undetected, the rains help spread diseases like cholera, dengue fever and malaria.

The authorities in Sanaa appealed this week to UNESCO to help save the city's heritage.

They said around 111 houses had either collapsed or partially collapsed in recent weeks.

The floods have hit across the divided country and have been especially tough on displaced people living in makeshift camps, which have been washed away.

Source: News Agencies