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Saudi’s floods and the Yemen conflict 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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The ever-dependable Simon Henderson over at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has a few useful notes in his latest policy brief.

Aside from a brief recap of the basics of Saudi succession (there is no-one better on this topic) Henderson briefly discusses the fall out of the recent floods in Jeddah and there’s also a word or two about their Yemeni conflict. The whole piece is well worth the read, but here are the key interesting bits, as far as I see it.

The Red Sea port of Jeddah is a case in point. The city suffered catastrophic floods on November 25, brought about by torrential rain after a period of drought. (The government had called on the Saudi people to pray for rain.) At least 118 people died, although some estimates put the toll at several times this, with one claiming more than a thousand. Critics see the magnitude of the catastrophe as correlating directly to insufficient investment in public works.

Among the places badly damaged were parts of the new, state-of-the-art King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a pet project of the monarch. In Jeddah itself, the crisis was worsened by lack of drains, even on newly built roads. The sewage system in much of the city is antiquated, relying on basement tanks that are emptied regularly and the contents trucked to Musk Lake (labeled on GoogleEarth), an artificial lake in the hills several miles east of the city. Fears that the earth walls of the lake could collapse have led to the panicked flight of some residents in the likely path of the estimated 30 million cubic meters of mostly untreated sewage. On December 10, it was reported that the Jeddah municipality has banned further dumping into the lake.

Despite claims of successes, the fighting has not been going entirely well for the Saudi forces. At least one small group of special forces has been wiped out by rebel units, and Saudi officials have released the names of nine missing soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel. Online reports indicate that some of the missing have been found in Yemeni territory, a contentious issue because King Abdullah has said no soldiers will cross the border.