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Cyclone hits Yemeni island Socotra, 19 missing

Cars and boats have been swept away as heavy rains and strong winds prompted a state of emergency on the UNESCO world heritage site.

Cyclone Mekunu roared over the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea on Thursday sending torrents of water rushing down streets and sinking at least two ships. Nineteen people were reported missing in the powerful storm.

Meteorologists expected the "very severe" cyclone to strike Oman on Saturday near Salalah, the sultanate's third-largest city and home to some 200,000 people near the country's border with Yemen.

Mekunu's sustained winds reached 155kph with gusts reaching 175kph.

Yemen's pro-government SABA news agency reported that 19 people were missing after two ships capsised in the storm and three vehicles washed away. It said Yemen's government, exiled in Saudi Arabia, had declared Socotra a "disaster" zone after the storm.

Soaking wet residents attempted to find shelter from the storm, which brought heavy rain, flooding and mudslides.

Mohammed al-Arqabi, a resident of the island who works as a local journalist, described the situation as "very bad," saying "the water level has greatly increased, and floods are everywhere ... washing away cars".

"More than 200 families have been displaced from their homes in the suburbs of Hadibu and areas close to the northern coast," he said. "Two Indian cargo ships have gone missing, losing five of their crew members."

Rajeh Bady, a spokesman for Yemen's exiled government, said the island was in need of "urgent" aid, according to SABA.

The island is listed by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.

Mekunu, which means "mullet" in Dhivehi, the language spoken in the Maldives, is on track to potentially be a Category 2 hurricane. It also comes just days after Cyclone Sagar struck Somalia.


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