Stampede in Yemen’s Capital Kills at Least 78 Seeking Food Aid, Houthis Say

SANA, Yemen — A stampede at an event to distribute financial aid in the Yemeni capital of Sana late on Wednesday left at least 78 people dead and dozens of others injured, a Houthi official said.

The crush took place at a school in the Old City in the center of Sana, when hundreds of poor people gathered at an event organized by merchants, according to the Houthi-run Interior Ministry.

The ministry’s spokesman, Brig. Abdel-Khaleq al-Aghri, blamed the disaster on the “random distribution” of funds without coordination with the local authorities.

The Houthi rebels quickly sealed off the school and barred people, including journalists, from approaching.

The ministry said dozens of the injured were taken to nearby hospitals. At least 13 were seriously injured, according to the Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite TV channel, citing Motaher al-Marouni, a senior health official in Sana, who confirmed the death toll.

Two witnesses, Abdel-Rahman Ahmed and Yahia Mohsen, said armed Houthis had shot into the air in an attempt to control the crowd, apparently striking an electrical wire and causing it to explode. That set off a panic and people began stampeding, they said.

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

The Iranian-backed Houthis descended from their northern stronghold in 2014, removed the internationally recognized government and took control of Yemen’s capital. The Houthi move prompted a Saudi-led coalition to intervene in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government.

The conflict has turned into a proxy war in recent years between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the war killing more than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, and creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

This month, after eight years of civil war, a new round of talks raised a glimmer of hope for a breakthrough. The negotiations in Sana brought together Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital and northwest.

Negotiators are seeking the reinstatement of a truce and a complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Yemen. A deal could open more flights from the Sana airport, allow thousands of people to travel for lifesaving medical treatment, allow the resumption of Yemeni oil exports and lift restrictions on ports, making more essential goods available and easing inflation.

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