At least 78 people have been killed in a crush at a school in Yemen’s capital Sanaa just days before the Eid al-Fitr festival, according to Houthi officials and media.
The crush happened late on Wednesday as hundreds of people crowded into a school in the Bab al-Yemen district of Sanaa in the hope of getting a charitable donation of about $10 that was being handed out by merchants to mark the final days of Ramadan.
A video posted by Houthi television on the Telegram messaging app showed a crowd of people jammed together, some screaming and shouting and reaching out to be pulled to safety. Security staff fought to push people back and control the crowd.
Separate footage released by the Houthis, who control the capital, showed bloodstains, shoes and victims’ clothing scattered on the ground while investigators examined the area.
Witnesses Abdel-Rahman Ahmed and Yahia Mohsen told The Associated Press news agency that armed Houthis had fired into the air in an attempt at crowd control, apparently hitting an electrical wire, which exploded and caused panic among those waiting.
The Houthi-controlled Ministry of Interior’s spokesperson Brig Abdel-Khaleq al-Aghri described the incident as “tragic”, blaming the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with local authorities.
The two merchants who organized the event had been detained and an investigation was underway, the ministry said. The Houthis announced they would pay some $2,000 in compensation to each family who lost a relative, while the injured would get about $400.
At least 73 of the injured were taken to the al-Thowra Hospital in Sanaa, according to hospital deputy director Hamdan Bagheri, with families rushing to hospitals looking for their loved ones.