June 5, 2023

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At least 78 people were killed and dozens injured in a stampede in the Yemeni capital

SANA’A (Yemen) – A crowd appeared to be panicked by gunfire and an electrical explosion at a financial aid distribution event during the holy month of Ramadan in the Yemeni capital on Wednesday night, witnesses reported, killing at least 78 people and injuring at least 73 others. and Houthi rebel officials.

The tragedy was the deadliest in Yemen in years and was not related to the country’s long war, and it came before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan later this week.

The armed Houthis fired into the air in an attempt to control the crowds, apparently hitting an electric wire, causing it to explode, according to two witnesses, Abd al-Rahman Ahmed and Yahya Mohsen. This sparked a panic, and people, including many women and children, began stampeding, they said.

Videos posted on social media showed dozens of corpses, some motionless, others screaming as people tried to help. Separate footage of the antiquities released by Houthi officials showed bloodstains and the shoes and clothes of the victims splattered on the ground. Investigators were seen scanning the area.

The stampede took place in the old city center of Sana’a, where hundreds of poor people gathered to attend a charity event organized by merchants, according to the Houthi-run Ministry of Interior.

Clothes on steps and ground after a deadly stampede in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday.Media Office of Ansar Allah Al-Houthi via AP

Witnesses said people gathered to receive about $10 each from a charity funded by local businessmen. Wealthy people and businessmen often distribute cash and food, especially to the poor, during Ramadan.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Brig. Abdel-Khaleq Al-Aghri, blamed the stampede on the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with local authorities.

A senior health official, Mutahar al-Marwani, said 78 people had been killed, according to the rebels’ al-Masirah satellite channel. At least 73 others were injured and taken to Al-Thawra Hospital in Sanaa, according to the hospital’s deputy director, Hamdan Bagheri.

The rebels quickly closed a school where the event was taking place and prevented people, including journalists, from approaching.

The Interior Ministry said it had arrested two of the organizers and the matter was being investigated.

The Houthis said they would pay about $2,000 in compensation to each family who lost a relative, while the wounded would receive about $400.

Yemen’s capital has been under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi movement since they swept from their northern stronghold in 2014 and toppled the internationally recognized government.

That prompted the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in 2015 to try to restore the government.

The conflict has in recent years turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, killing more than 150,000 people including combatants and civilians and creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

More than 21 million people in Yemen, or two-thirds of the country’s population, need assistance and protection, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Among those in need, more than 17 million are particularly vulnerable.

The United Nations said in February it had raised only $1.2 billion out of a $4.3 billion target at a conference aimed at providing funds to ease the humanitarian crisis.

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