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85 dead, hundreds injured in Yemen crush at Ramazan cash handout

Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP

At least 85 people were killed and hundreds injured in a crush at a Ramazan cash handout in Yemen early on Thursday, as the impoverished country suffered one of its worst tragedies just as optimism was growing over its bitter civil war.

Three people were detained over the incident in Sanaa — Yemen’s rebel-held capital — after large crowds gathered at a school to receive gifts of 5,000 rials (about $8) for the end of Ramazan.

Harrowing footage screened by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels’ Al Masirah TV showed a tightly packed crowd screaming and shoving, unable to move, while others attempted to haul stricken people out of the crush.

Other shots showed dead bodies on the ground as the panic continued. Afterwards, piles of abandoned sandals, clothing and a crutch littered the scene, while an investigator in white protective gear collected evidence.

At least “85 were killed and more than 322 were injured”, a Houthi security official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that around 50 were in serious condition.

“Women and children were among the dead,” the official said. A health official confirmed the toll.

The incident comes just ahead of Eid al-Fitr and punctures a buoyant mood over the war in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, following peace talks and an exchange of nearly 1,000 prisoners last week.

The Houthis, who seized Sanaa in 2014, are fighting a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that intervened in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the ousted government.

large crowds outside one hospital entrance.

At the school, heavily deployed security forces were seen blocking relatives from entering the facility to locate family members.

Footage from one hospital showed dazed and bandaged survivors recovering in a ward, some with visible wounds on their limbs and heads.

Yemen is no stranger to tragedy, most stemming from its brutal war. In 2016, a coalition airstrike killed more than 140 people attending a funeral, and dozens of children died in a strike on a bus in 2018.

At least 70 people died in an airstrike on a prison in Saada, the Houthis home city, in January 2022, and in March 2021, 45 people were killed in a blaze at a Sanaa migrant centre caused by Houthi forces firing teargas canisters.

1- Header image: This screengrab obtained on April 20, 2023 from footage released by the Huthi Security Media Office shows the crowd at the scene of an overnight stampede at a charity distribution event in Sanaa.— AFP

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