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UN agency: Rare cyclone gaining speed bears down on Yemen threatening flooding, landslides

  • This image taken in July, 2015 and released by Médecins Sans Frontières , Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 shows the site of a hospital that was hit by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen have destroyed a small hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the northern province of Saada, although there were no deaths and only one injury, the aid group said Tuesday. (Médecins Sans Frontières via AP)

    This image taken in July, 2015 and released by Médecins Sans Frontières , Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 shows the site of a hospital that was hit by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen have destroyed a small hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the northern province of Saada, although there were no deaths and only one injury, the aid group said Tuesday. (Médecins Sans Frontières via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This image taken on Oct. 27, 2015 and released by Médecins Sans Frontières, shows the aftermath of an airstrike on a hospital in Saada province, Yemen. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen have destroyed a small hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the northern province of Saada, although there were no deaths and only one injury, the aid group said Tuesday. (Médecins Sans Frontières via AP)

    This image taken on Oct. 27, 2015 and released by Médecins Sans Frontières, shows the aftermath of an airstrike on a hospital in Saada province, Yemen. Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels in Yemen have destroyed a small hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the northern province of Saada, although there were no deaths and only one injury, the aid group said Tuesday. (Médecins Sans Frontières via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • A Shiite fighter, known as a Houthi, walks past of a house damaged by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

    A Shiite fighter, known as a Houthi, walks past of a house damaged by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

The U.N. weather agency says a rare and rapidly intensifying cyclone is poised to hit Yemen in the coming days, possibly dumping more than a year's worth of rainfall on the arid, impoverished and war-torn country.

World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis says forecasts suggest that Cyclone Chapala in the Arabian Sea will reach wind speeds of up to 230 kph (140 mph) before diminishing to about half that as it hit land in sparsely populated northeast Yemen around midnight on Monday.

Nullis said Friday in Geneva that her agency was unaware of any cyclone ever hitting Yemen previously, and pointed to the risk to schools, homes and roads from possible landslides and flooding.

She said the port of Salalah in neighboring Oman was likely to be "severely" affected too.