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Seven die in worst floods in Yemen capital in decade

Western countries and neighbour Saudi Arabia fear Yemen may turn into Al Qaeda stronghold .

world Updated: May 06, 2010 15:18 IST

At least seven people were killed in a Sanaa shanty town in the worst flooding to hit the Yemeni capital in over a decade, officials said on Thursday.

Witnesses said that water streamed down from nearby mountains on Wednesday evening, after torrential rain in a low-lying residential area of eastern Sanaa which has no drainage system, hence flooding hundreds of homes.

"A flood suddenly appeared and invaded the houses," said Jamil Mohamed, a resident of the flooded shanty town.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh toured the affected areas of the capital, the defence ministry's online newspaper said.

Western countries and neighbour Saudi Arabia fear impoverished Yemen, fighting Shi'ite rebels in the north and southern separatism, may turn into a failed state from which Al Qaeda could intensify attacks on the region and beyond.

The country shot to the top of Western security concerns after a Yemen-based Al Qaeda wing claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack on a US-bound passenger plane in December.

In the capital, where many streets remained flooded, rescue operations continued and more than 250 people were evacuated from their homes and taken to shelter in schools. More rain was forecast for Thursday but was not expected to be as heavy.

Seasonal flooding killed about 180 people in 2008 in two eastern provinces, according to UN agencies, and floods in 1998 killed at least 48 people south of Sanaa. Of the seven people who died, some drowned and others were killed by falling electricity pylons, officials said. Two more people were hurt and in hospital.