According to witnesses and Houthi rebel officials, a crowd apparently frightened by gunfire and an electrical explosion stampeded at an event to distribute financial aid during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Yemen's capital on Wednesday night, killing at least 78 people and injuring 73 others.
Before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which will mark the end of Ramadan later this week, this tragedy was Yemen's deadliest in years, unrelated to the country's protracted civil conflict.
According to two witnesses, Abdel-Rahman Ahmed and Yahia Mohsen, the armed Houthis fired into the air to disperse the throng, striking an electrical wire and causing it to explode. People, including many women and children, began stampeding, according to the witnesses.
A social media video depicted dozens of corpses, some motionless and others screaming as people attempted to aid them. Separate footage of the aftermath, released by Houthi officials, revealed bloodstains, shoes, and victims' apparel strewn across the ground. Investigators were observed inspecting the scene.
According to the Houthi-run Interior Ministry, the crush occurred in the Old City in the heart of Sanaa, where hundreds of poor people had congregated for a charity event organized by merchants.
According to witnesses, people had congregated to receive approximately $10 each from a charity funded by local businessmen. During Ramadan, wealthy individuals and businessmen frequently donate money and food, notably to the poor.
Brigadier Abdel-Khaleq al-Aghri, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, attributed the shortage to the "random distribution" of funds without coordination with municipal authorities.
Motaher al-Marouni, a senior health official, reported 78 deaths, according to the insurgents' Al-Masirah satellite television channel. At least 73 others were injured and transported to the al-Thowra Hospital in Sanaa, according to Hamdan Bagheri, the hospital's deputy director.
The rebels immediately sealed off the school where the event was being held and forbade anyone from entering, including journalists.
According to the Interior Ministry, two organizers have been detained, and an investigation is underway.
The Houthis stated that they would compensate each family who suffered a fatality with approximately $2,000, while the injured would receive approximately $400.
Since 2014, when they descended from their northern bastion and overthrew the internationally recognized government, the Iranian-backed Houthis have held sway over the Yemeni capital.
In 2015, a coalition headed by Saudi Arabia intervened in an attempt to restore the government.
In recent years, the conflict has evolved into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, resulting in the deaths of over 150,000 people, including combatants and civilians, and one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, two-thirds of Yemen's population, or more than 21 million people, require assistance and protection. More than 17 million of those in need are considered particularly vulnerable.
At a conference to generate funds to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, the United Nations reported in February that it had only raised $1.2 billion of a target of $4.3 billion.