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.
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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.
Al Jazeera however, could not independently ascertain the reasons behind the crush.
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 organised the event had been detained and an investigation was under way, 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.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed al-Attab, reporting from Sanaa, said the disaster had “sparked nationwide anger”.
Sanaa has been under the control of the Houthis since 2014 when they removed the country’s internationally-recognised government.
That led to the intervention of a Saudi-led coalition a year later.
More than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, have been killed in the conflict, which has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
More than 21 million people in Yemen, or two-thirds of the country’s population, need assistance and protection, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.