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At least 78 killed in crush at Ramadan charity event in Yemen

At least 78 killed in crush at Ramadan charity event in Yemen

Posted April. 21, 2023 07:50,   

Updated April. 21, 2023 07:50


Hundreds of people gathered at a cash distribution event in Yemen, the Middle East country currently going through a civil war, leaving at least 78 dead.

According to Reuters, at least 78 people were crushed to death and 73 others injured on Tuesday when hundreds of people gathered for a cash handout ceremony at a school in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, before the last day of the Islamic month of Ramadan. The death toll is feared to increase further as many are critically injured. The attendees had come to the event after hearing that 9,000 Yemeni riyals (about 12,000 won) would be distributed per person. Yemen, an impoverished nation embroiled in a civil war since 2014, had a purchasing power parity (PPP) of 2,078 dollars per capita as of 2021, making it the 13th poorest country out of 191 in the world.

Witnesses claim that Houthi rebels who control the area exacerbated the situation by shooting into the air to control the crowd, causing a panicked stampede when a pole transformer was exploded from a gunshot.

On social media, video footage from the incident shows a disturbing scene where people crowded tightly together towards the stage from which cash and relief supplies were being distributed, screaming and waving their hands in the air for help. The ground was covered in scattered bodies, piles of abandoned shoes and clothes left behind by those who managed to escape the chaos.

The Houthi rebels announced the arrest of two merchants who organized the event and pledged to investigate the incident. They also announced compensation of 2,000 and 400 dollars for the families of the deceased and the injured, respectively.

Yemen has suffered political turmoil and civil war since 2014 when Houthi rebels backed by Iran ousted a Saudi-backed government. The conflict has escalated into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with devastating consequences for Yemeni civilians, including severe economic hardships. The United Nations estimates that the conflict has caused over 150,000 deaths and left 21 million people, or about 70% of the population, in need of humanitarian aid.

Sung-Hwi Kang yolo@donga.com