At least 78 people were killed in a stampede in the Yemeni capital

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A crowd appeared to have been spooked by gunfire and an electrical explosion at a cash aid distribution event in Yemen’s capital late Wednesday, killing at least 78 and wounding at least 73 others, according to eyewitnesses and Houthi rebels. Officials.

Abdul Rahman Ahmed and Yahya Mohsen, who witnessed the scene, said Houthi gunmen fired in the air in an effort to control the crowds, apparently striking an electric wire, causing it to explode. This sparked a panic, and people, including many women and children, began stampeding, they said.

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

The stampede took place in the old city center of Sanaa, where hundreds of poor people had gathered to attend the event organized by merchants, according to the Houthi-run Interior Ministry.

Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdel-Khaleq Al-Aghri, blamed the stampede on the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with local authorities. The tragedy comes just ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan later this week.

The death toll was 78, Mutahar al-Marwani, a health official in Sanaa, said at least 13 were seriously injured, according to Al-Masirah satellite channel.

Hamdan Bagheri, deputy director of Al-Thawra Hospital in Sanaa, said in televised statements that the tragedy occurred around 8:20 pm, and the facility received at least 73 injured people.

The rebels quickly closed the school where the event was taking place and prevented people, including journalists, from approaching.

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The Interior Ministry said it had detained two of the organizers and the investigation was ongoing.

Yemen’s capital has been under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi movement since they swept from their northern stronghold in 2014 and toppled the internationally recognized government.

That prompted the Saudi-led coalition to intervene in 2015 to try to restore the government.

The conflict has in recent years turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, killing more than 150,000 people including combatants and civilians and creating 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. Among those in need, more than 17 million are particularly vulnerable.

The United Nations said in February it had raised only $1.2 billion out of a $4.3 billion target at a conference aimed at providing funds to ease the humanitarian crisis.

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