Dozens die in Ramadan crush in Yemen’s capital Sanaa

Shoes after the crush

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.

Video footage on social media shows chaotic scenes after the incident in the Bab-al-Yemen area of the city.

Reuters news agency reports that hundreds of people crowded into the school to receive donations which amounted to about $9 per person.

Those responsible for the distribution have been detained and an investigation is under way, the interior ministry said.

A spokesman for the ministry blamed the crush on the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with local officials. Many people were also injured with 13 in a critical situation, a health official in Sanaa said.

Houthi rebels have run the city since they drove out the government in 2015.

“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 quotes 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 event happened during the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is marked by a period of fasting.

Yemen has been devastated by the conflict that escalated in 2015, when the Houthis seized control of large parts of the west of the country.

President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi fled abroad and a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states intervened to restore his rule. However, years of military stalemate followed.

The fighting has reportedly left more than 150,000 people dead and more than 23 million people – three-quarters of the population – in need of some form of aid.

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 Houthi supreme evolutionary 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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