Dozens die in Ramadan crush in Yemen’s capital Sanaa

At least 78 people have been killed in a crush at a school in the Yemeni capital Sanaa during a distribution of charity for Ramadan, officials say.

TV footage shows a crowd of people unable to move and many in distress in the Bab al-Yemen area of the city.

Hundreds of people reportedly crowded into the school late on Wednesday to receive donations amounting to about $9 (£7; €8) per person.

The rebel Houthi movement has controlled Sanaa since 2015.

Video posted on social media shows people screaming with dozens of bodies on the ground, some of which are not moving. Other people are seen trying to help.

Two local businessmen who arranged the event had been arrested and an investigation was under way, the interior ministry said.

A spokesman for the ministry blamed the crush on the “random distribution” of funds without co-ordination with local officials.

Many people were also injured with 13 in a critical situation, a health official in Sanaa said.

“Women and children were among the dead,” a Houthi security official told AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to journalists.

The Associated Press news agency quoted two eyewitnesses who said Houthi fighters had fired into the air in an attempt at crowd control, apparently striking an electrical wire which resulted in an explosion. This caused panic that led to the crush, they added.

The rebels are said to have then sealed off the school and barred people, including journalists, from approaching.

The Houthis have reportedly agreed to pay $2,000 (£1,600) to each family who lost a relative, while the injured would get around $400 (£322).


Yemen basics

  • Yemen has been devastated by a conflict that escalated in 2015, when the Houthis seized large parts of the country and a Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of the Yemeni government
  • More than 150,000 people have died in the conflict, which has widely been seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran
  • More than 23 million people – three-quarters of the population – are in need of some form of aid
  • Yemen’s internationally-recognised government is now based in Aden

The event happened during the final days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Last week a major prisoner swap between warring sides in Yemen started, seen as part of stepped-up efforts to end the devastating eight-year conflict.

Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, blamed Wednesday’s crush on the country’s humanitarian crisis.

“We hold the countries of aggression responsible for what happened and for the bitter reality that the Yemeni people live in because of the aggression and blockade,” he said on Twitter.

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