Mission to Yemen reveals extent of tsunami damage

Mission to Yemen reveals extent of tsunami damage


Fishing communities in Yemen were much more seriously affected by the December 2004 tsunami than had been originally thought, with damages totalling around US$2.2 million and 2 000 families affected, a fact-finding mission carried out jointly by FAO and the Yemeni Government has reported. The mission, undertaken in July 2005 after a request was made to FAO by Yemeni authorities, surveyed 34 coastal communities in the Al Mahara district and on the Socotra Islands, situated south of Yemen's mainland off the north-eastern tip of Somalia.

"We found that while the damage was less than in countries closer to the epicentre of the earthquake, there were significant impacts on the livelihoods of local people, especially fishermen," said FAO expert Hans Båge, who led the mission. 

High waves damaged boats, engines and fishing gear as well as infrastructure vital to the fishing sector, such as ice plants, storage sheds and jetties, with 653 boats, 569 engines 1 625 nets and 16 980 fishing traps either damaged or completely destroyed, according to the latest estimates made by the joint FAO/Government mission.

Many landing beaches and natural harbours were also destroyed. These losses have severely affected the livelihoods of 2 000 fishing households and left many of them without any means of income. Most of them have not received any assistance to help them resume fishing and livelihood activities. 

The halt in fishing has in turn had an economic impact on buyers, sellers, processors and others who make a living in fisheries-related activities, Båge noted. The fishery sector plays an important role in the Yemeni economy and provides employment to more than 53 000 fishers and workers in related sectors. 

Lack of financial and technical expertise, shortcomings in coordination and difficulties reaching the remote affected villages meant that initial estimates of the tsunami's impacts did not provide a full picture of damage, and authorities did not immediately perceive the need for international assistance. 

Donor support for rehabilitation project needed 

FAO is urging donors to support a US$2.2 million post-tsunami fisheries rehabilitation project it is proposing for Yemen. "Many fishermen have not been fishing for six months now," said Båge. "They will only be able to start again in September when the present monsoon stops, and if they receive proper assistance." 

The project would provide essential fishing inputs, such as nets, hooks, fishing line and spare engine parts and repair or replace boats, engines and fishing gear. FAO also proposes conducting an assessment of the feasibility of reconstructing eroded beaches and natural harbours on which many Yemeni fishers depend.