At least 78 have died in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, where hundreds were crowding into the school to receive donations for the Muslim holy month.

Those responsible have been detained, local Houthi authorities say – but witnesses say fighters from the rebel faction who have controlled the city for years caused the panic by firing into the air as an attempt at crowd control.

On top of at least 78 deaths, many people were also injured – including 13 currently in critical condition, officials in the capital said.

Hundreds of people had crowded into the school to receive donations of about $9 (£7) per person, Reuters news agency reports.

A spokesman for the Houthi-run interior ministry blamed the crush on the “random distribution” of funds without co-ordination with local officials.

A spokesman for the Houthi-run interior ministry blamed the incident on overcrowding caused by the “random distribution” of funds without co-ordination with local officials.

However, two witnesses told the Associated Press that the crush began after armed Houthis fired into the air in an attempt at crowd control. The shots struck an electrical wire and caused it to explode, sparking panic, they added.

Al-Masdar Online, an anti-Houthi local news outlet, also quoted a source who was near the scene at the time as saying that he heard sporadic gunfire from several automatic rifles, followed by a flash of light caused by a short circuit, causing people to panic and sparking a stampede.

He said that he could not be sure of the source of the gunfire, but added: “The Houthis are not innocent in this incident.”

The source also noted that rebels had previously tried to prevent the local merchant from distributing zakat (alms) and demanded that he hand it over to the Houthi General Zakat Authority, which the merchant had refused to do.

The BBC has been unable to verify the reports of gunfire.

Deadly crushes when crowd control fails and mass-panic set in are thankfully rare.

The worst in recent times took place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 2015, after a massive stampede during the Hajj left 2,300 people dead.

In October last year, more than 150 died in South Korea’s capital Seoul, when thousands of people became trapped in narrow streets during a Halloween party.

Just a few weeks earlier, 135 people in Indonesia died at a football stadium in Malang, East Java – among those killed were more than 40 children.

Police used tear gas on fans and people were crushed or suffocated while trying to use closed or narrow doors out of the venue.

In October 2013, at least 115 people died at a Hindu religious festival near a temple in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Most of the victims were trampled or drowned and around 20,000 people were on a bridge over the Sindh River at the time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *