Yemen: At least 78 dead in stampede at Ramadan charity event
Stampede at an event in Sanaa organised by merchants to distribute charitable donations during the last few days of Ramadan killed at least 78 people late Wednesday, while injuring dozens of others to varying severities, according to the Houthi-run Interior Ministry.
A number of casualties were rushed to nearby hospitals. A senior health official, Motaher al-Marouni, provided the death tally and said at least 13 had sustained serious injuries in the accident, Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite TV channel reported.
The rebels swiftly sealed off the school in the Old City in the centre of the capital where the distribution event was organised and barred people, including journalists, from entering. Hundreds of people were set to receive donations amounting to 5,000 Yemeni riyals (roughly $9) per person, Reuters News Agency reported, citing eyewitnesses.
A few people familiar with the matter said armed Houthis shot in the air in an effort to control the massive crowd at the school, apparently hitting an electrical wire and causing it to explode. The panic-stricken crowd eventually started stampeding, they added.
Two merchants who organised the event have been detained and a probe was ongoing, the interior ministry informed in a separate statement.
The Yemeni capital of Sanaa has been controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militia since 2014 when they removed the internationally recognised government. The move caused a Saudi-led military coalition to intervene in 2015 to restore the government.
The years-long brutal conflict has transformed into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran in recent years. The war has killed over 150,000 people, including civilians, while creating one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world.