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78 killed in Yemen at Ramadan charity event

Dozens of people were killed in a crowd surge in Yemen’s capital on Wednesday, as vulnerable residents in the war-torn nation flocked to receive charity handouts from local merchants during the holy month of Ramadan, officials have confirmed.

Houthi officials explained that an armed Houthis fired into the air in an attempt to control the crowd, apparently striking an electrical wire and causing it to explode.

According to two witnesses, Abdel-Rahman Ahmed and Yahia Mohsen. “This sparked a panic, and people, including many women and children, began stampeding”, they said.

The tragedy was Yemen’s deadliest in years that was not related to the country’s long-running war, and came ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Video posted on social media showed dozens of bodies, some motionless, and others screaming as people tried to help.

Separate footage of the aftermath released by Houthi officials showed bloodstains, shoes and victims’ clothing scattered on the ground. Investigators were seen examining the area.

The crush took place in the Old City in the center of Sanaa, where people had gathered to receive about $10 each from a charity funded by local businessmen, witnesses said.

Wealthy people and businessmen often hand out cash and food, especially to the poor, during Ramadan.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Brig. Abdel-Khaleq al-Aghri, blamed the crush on the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with local authorities.

Motaher al-Marouni, a senior health official, said 78 people were killed, according the rebels’ Al-Masirah satellite TV channel.

According to hospital deputy director Hamdan Bagheri, at least 73 others were injured and taken to the al-Thowra Hospital in Sanaa,

The Interior Ministry said it had detained two organizers and an investigation was under way.

The Houthis said they would pay some $2,000 in compensation to each family who lost a relative, while the injured would get around $400.


Writing by Julian Osamoto