People stampeded at an event to distribute financial aid in Yemen’s capital late Wednesday, and at least 78 people were killed and dozens more suffered injuries, a Houthi official said.
The crush took place in the Old City in the center of Sanaa when hundreds of poor people gathered at an event organised by merchants, according to the Houthi-run Interior Ministry.
The ministry’s spokesman, Brig. Abdel-Khaleq al-Aghri, blamed the disaster on the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with local authorities.
Dozens of casualties were taken to nearby hospitals. Motaher al-Marouni, a senior health official in Sanaa, gave the death tally and said at least 13 were seriously injured, according the Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite TV channel.
The rebels quickly sealed off the school where the event was organised and barred people, including journalists, from approaching.
Eyewitnesses, Abdel-Rahman Ahmed and Yahia Mohsen, said armed Houthis shot in the air in an attempt to control the crowd, apparently striking an electrical wire and causing it to explode. That sparked panic and people began stampeding, they said.
The Houthi-run Interior Ministry said it had detained two organisers and an investigation was underway.
Yemen’s capital is controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthis since they descended from their northern stronghold in 2014 and removed the internationally recognised government.
The Houthi move prompted a Saudi-led coalition to intervene in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government.
The conflict has turned in recent years into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The war has killed more than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.