SANAA (Yemen) — Witnesses and Houthi rebels say that a crowd, apparently spooked and frightened by gunfire and electrical explosions, stampeded during an event in Yemen’s capital to distribute financial assistance for the Muslim holy month Ramadan late Wednesday. At least 78 people were killed and at least 73 injured.
This is the worst tragedy in recent years, not connected to Yemen’s war. It happened just before the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks Ramadan’s end this week.
According to Abdel-Rahman Ahmed, and Yahia Mossen, two witnesses who witnessed the incident, armed Houthis fired in the air to control crowds, striking an electric wire, which caused it to explode. This caused panic and many people, including women and children began to stampede, according to the witnesses.
Social media videos showed dozens bodies. Some were motionless and some screamed as people tried to assist. Separate footage released by Houthi authorities showed bloodstains and clothing of victims scattered across the ground. Investigators are seen inspecting the area.
According to the Houthi Interior Ministry, the crush occurred in Sanaa’s Old City, where hundreds had gathered at a charity event organised by merchants. The distribution of financial aid during Ramadan is a tradition, as the faithful fast between dawn and dusk.
Witnesses said that people had gathered for a charity, funded by local businessmen. Each person received about $10. Wealthy businessmen and wealthy people often give out food and cash to the poor, especially during Ramadan.
Brig. Brig. Brig. Brig. Brig. Abdel-Khaleq al-Aghri blamed the “random” distribution of funds, without coordination with local officials.
According to Al-Masirah, the rebel satellite TV channel, Motaher al-Marouni is a senior official in health. Hamdan Bagheri, the hospital’s deputy director, said that at least 73 other people were injured and transported to al-Thowra Hospital Sanaa.
The rebels immediately sealed off the school that was hosting the event and prohibited people from entering, including journalists.
The Interior Ministry announced that it had arrested two organizers, and an investigation is underway.
The Houthis have said that they will pay $2,000 to families who lose a family member, and $400 for those injured.
Since the Houthis, backed by Iran, took control of Yemen’s capital in 2014 after they left their northern stronghold and ousted the internationally recognized government.
This led a coalition led by Saudi Arabia to intervene to restore the government in 2015.
In recent years, the conflict has evolved into proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran . More than 150,000 people have been killed including civilians and fighters. This is one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in history.
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 21 million Yemenis, or two thirds of the population, require help and protection. More than 17 millions of those in need are deemed particularly vulnerable.
In February, the United Nations announced that it had only raised $1.2 billion of the $4.3 billion target at a conference to raise funds for the relief of the humanitarian crisis.