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18 dead in week of Saudi floods, rain: civil defence

RIYADH, April 14, (Agencies): Eighteen people have been killed during heavy rains and floods over the past week in Saudi Arabia, the civil defence agency said on Thursday. In a statement, it said the toll covered much of the country, from Riyadh to Hail, Makkah, Madinah, Al-Baha, Asir, Najran and Jazan.

The agency said it rescued 915 people. Among the dead were two people reported by state television earlier Thursday as killed in the southwestern Jazan region, which borders Yemen. The pair died when three areas in the mountainous district were inundated by flood waters, Al-Ekhbaria news channel reported on its Twitter feed. The Saudi Red Crescent separately reported one death in Al-Baha, more than 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of Jazan city. Another 27 people in Al-Baha were injured over three days because of accidents during heavy rains. Severe downpours have struck Saudi Arabia this week, including in the desert capital Riyadh where schools closed on Wednesday after floods caused traffic chaos during a storm.

Elsewhere, heavy rainfall in several parts of Yemen has caused widespread flooding that killed at least 16 people and caused the collapse of small dams, including two in Hajja and Omran provinces north of the capital, Sanaa, security officials and the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. The ministry said the 16 were killed over the past 24 hours, mostly in Omran and Hajja. Damage to property was particularly heavy, with rushing muddy water cutting off roads and sweeping away cars and cattle, according to the officials. Besides Hajja and Omran, unusually heavy rainfall over the past 24 hours has also hit Sanaa and the southern port of Aden. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Yemen is located at the southern corner of the Arabia Peninsula, overlooking the Red and Arabia Seas. Its rainy season is in the spring and summer in the north. The wet season in the south is over the winter months. The officials, meanwhile, said at least 40 people have been killed over the past two days across Yemen in violence that has strained a cease-fire that started this week. The truce is meant to pave the way for peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides, due to start next week in Kuwait.

The officials said the fatalities resulted from airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition, which is battling the country’s Shiite rebels and their allies, and in fighting on the ground between rival groups. They said Sanaa has been particularly hit by airstrikes. A coalition airstrike Thursday in Nahm, an area east of Sanaa, killed at least one civilian and wounded five, they added.

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