Photos: After war, floods now threaten Yemen’s UNESCO heritage sites

Recurring floods caused annually due to torrential rains threaten to finish off the destruction of UNESCO listed world heritage sites and distinctive buildings in the Yemeni capital Sanaa with their ochre brick facades and white latticework windows, experts say. Conservation efforts are already bogged down by the conflict between the Houthis and Saudi led coalition backed government and natural causes are only expediting damage that has been done by years of civil war.

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST 8 Photos
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A row of UNESCO World Heritage listed buildings seen in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on August 12. Sanaa’s Old City, inhabited without interruption for more than 2,500 years now faces disaster after annual floods that threaten the collapse of irreplaceable houses and other structures. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

A row of UNESCO World Heritage listed buildings seen in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on August 12. Sanaa’s Old City, inhabited without interruption for more than 2,500 years now faces disaster after annual floods that threaten the collapse of irreplaceable houses and other structures. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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People inspect the site of a collapsed UNESCO-listed building following heavy rains on August 12. Torrential rains have also threatened other UNESCO heritage sites in Yemen, including in Shibam further east, renowned for its high-rise mud-brick “skyscrapers.” In Sanaa, 106 buildings, including five in the Old City, have been destroyed so far and 156 damaged, a source at the Houthi health ministry told AFP. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

People inspect the site of a collapsed UNESCO-listed building following heavy rains on August 12. Torrential rains have also threatened other UNESCO heritage sites in Yemen, including in Shibam further east, renowned for its high-rise mud-brick “skyscrapers.” In Sanaa, 106 buildings, including five in the Old City, have been destroyed so far and 156 damaged, a source at the Houthi health ministry told AFP. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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Labourers remove rubble ahead of restoration work on the site of a collapsed UNESCO-listed building in Sanaa on August 12. Flooding is common in Yemen at this time of year, blighting the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula that is in the grips of what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. But the flooding has been particularly severe this year. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

Labourers remove rubble ahead of restoration work on the site of a collapsed UNESCO-listed building in Sanaa on August 12. Flooding is common in Yemen at this time of year, blighting the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula that is in the grips of what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. But the flooding has been particularly severe this year. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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At least 172 people have been killed across Yemen since mid-July, according to official sources and local authorities. With water still lapping at the fragile structures known for their ochre brick facades and white latticework windows, many of which have had no maintenance for years, there are fears that more will tumble. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

At least 172 people have been killed across Yemen since mid-July, according to official sources and local authorities. With water still lapping at the fragile structures known for their ochre brick facades and white latticework windows, many of which have had no maintenance for years, there are fears that more will tumble. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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The extent of the damage can be blamed on years of “negligence and a lack of maintenance,” Doaa al-Wassiei, an official with the authority that manages Yemen’s historic towns, told AFP. “Sanaa is literally melting. The bombings which struck the town have made the foundations fragile. The rain has come to finish off whatever was left,” said Wassiei, who is also a member of a heritage protection group. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

The extent of the damage can be blamed on years of “negligence and a lack of maintenance,” Doaa al-Wassiei, an official with the authority that manages Yemen’s historic towns, told AFP. “Sanaa is literally melting. The bombings which struck the town have made the foundations fragile. The rain has come to finish off whatever was left,” said Wassiei, who is also a member of a heritage protection group. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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Labourers clean up rubble before restoration work begins in Sanaa’s Old City to repair a collapsed UNESCO-listed building. The 2015 intervention of a Saudi-led coalition in support of the government against the Iran-backed Houthis escalated the conflict on many levels. Coalition warplanes have also been accused of targeting civilians as well as historic sites including the Old City. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

Labourers clean up rubble before restoration work begins in Sanaa’s Old City to repair a collapsed UNESCO-listed building. The 2015 intervention of a Saudi-led coalition in support of the government against the Iran-backed Houthis escalated the conflict on many levels. Coalition warplanes have also been accused of targeting civilians as well as historic sites including the Old City. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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A labourer at work at a rubbled UNESCO-listed building following heavy rains in Sanaa on August 12. Doaa al-Wassiei called for more coordination between government and civil society groups involved in conservation. The work of those involved in protecting the nation’s heritage was being hampered by dysfunction and a lack of political will. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

A labourer at work at a rubbled UNESCO-listed building following heavy rains in Sanaa on August 12. Doaa al-Wassiei called for more coordination between government and civil society groups involved in conservation. The work of those involved in protecting the nation’s heritage was being hampered by dysfunction and a lack of political will. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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UNESCO has said it “profoundly regrets the loss of life and property in a number of historic centres in Yemen, including in the World Heritage sites.” The agency said that along with its international partners, it has been mobilising resources “to safeguard Yemen’s cultural heritage by implementing a number of projects” including reconstruction and assisting local authorities. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UNESCO has said it “profoundly regrets the loss of life and property in a number of historic centres in Yemen, including in the World Heritage sites.” The agency said that along with its international partners, it has been mobilising resources “to safeguard Yemen’s cultural heritage by implementing a number of projects” including reconstruction and assisting local authorities. (Mohammed Huwais / AFP)

UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2020 03:00 PM IST
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