Image: Destruction in ancient town
KHALED FAZAA  /  AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni on Tuesday describes the flooding and storm damage to the ancient city of Shibam. The city is a UNESCO World heritage site and is famed for its high-rise mudbrick buildings, mostly dating from the 16th century, that have given the town the moniker "the Manhattan of the desert."
updated 10/29/2008 10:23:58 AM ET 2008-10-29T14:23:58

Flood battered southern Yemen is at high risk for waterborne diseases and malaria, warned the World Health Organization Wednesday, as the Yemeni government raised the death toll to 103.

WHO, however, has put the number at 180. The discrepancy in casualty reports is because scores are believed to be missing or buried under debris of thousands of demolished mud brick houses.

WHO said in its statement that it has provided $100,000 to the affected population, as well as medicine for some 50,000 patients in the hard-hit southern provinces of Hadramut and al-Mahra.

Damage has been extensive with some of the southern cities still isolated after bridges and roads have been destroyed by floods caused by a tropical storm that smashed into the impoverished country on Thursday.

More than 20,000 people have been displaced and the government-led rescue operations have been slow due to a lack of heavy-machinery needed to clear the way to reach stricken areas.

Deputy Yemeni Prime Minister Sadek Amin Abu Ras said that helicopters are being used but they can carry only a limited amount of aid at any one time.

"There are huge difficulties facing rescue workers since the extent of the stricken area has reached 150,000 square kilometers," or a third of the country, Abu Ras told reporters.

"Floods reached 18 meters depth in some areas; bodies were swept away and were found far away in remote valleys," he added.

Mohammed Basalam, a member of the government rescue committee, said that the smell of the corpses filled the air and that "the biggest problem right now is a health and an environmental one."

Neighboring Arab countries have sent planes with relief to Yemen over the past few days.

Saudi King Abdullah has donated $100 million while Oman has sent medical supplies. The Emirati Red Crescent gave $100,000.

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