ADEN (Reuters) - A rare tropical cyclone struck Yemen's arid eastern coastal province of Hadramout on Tuesday and killed eight people before gradually petering out inland, regional officials said.
The storm was the worst the country had suffered in decades and came with Yemen already suffering a humanitarian crisis after seven months of war between an Iran-allied militia and the exiled government backed by an Arab coalition.
Hadramout's capital Mukalla has been largely run by Al Qaeda militants since the army withdrew from the city in April, a factor that humanitarian officials said had hampered an effective response to the cyclone.
"Eight people were killed in Mukalla and in the surrounding areas over the last four days due to heavy flooding brought by Cyclone Chapala," a municipal official in the city of 300,000 told Reuters by telephone.
Three people had already been killed by the storm on Monday on the Yemeni island of Socotra, whose impoverished people have long been isolated from the mainland.
Veering further into the Arabian Peninsula country's mostly desert interior, the storm largely subsided.
But the United Nations aid agency OCHA said on Wednesday that hundreds of homes had been severely damaged or destroyed on Socotra and in Hadramout and neighboring Shabwa province.
"More than 36,000 people are reported displaced and housed in public buildings or with host families," an OCHA statement said. "Humanitarian action is hindered by insecurity related to the ongoing conflict, and because much of the affected area is in territory controlled by al Qaeda."
The statement added that OCHA and other aid groups planned to ship food and tents by sea and were preparing an aid airlift to Socotra, an island of rare natural beauty.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf and Noah Browning; Editing by Mark Heinrich)