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Scores dead and hundreds injured in crush at charity distribution in Yemen

The crush in Yemen.
The crush in Yemen. Copyright AP/AL-MASIRAH TV CHANNEL
Copyright AP/AL-MASIRAH TV CHANNEL
By Euronews with AFP
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Hundreds of people crowded into the school to receive cash donations for Ramadan.

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At least 85 people were killed and more than 322 injured on Thursday in a crush at a school in Yemen's capital Sanaa. 

Hundreds of people had gathered to collect cash donations from a charity during the holy month of Ramadan. 

It is one of the deadliest stampedes to rock the country in a decade, with video footage showing chaotic scenes after the incident. 

Yemen is the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, scarred by a devastating civil war between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces, backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia respectively. 

Fighting has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and plunged some 30 million people into one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with three-quarters of the population dependent on international aid. 

The stampede erupted at night during a charity effort organised in the Bab el-Yemen district of the rebel-controlled capital. 

"Children are among those who died" and about 50 of the injured are in serious condition, said one Houthi security official on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

This devastating crush comes a few days before the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. 

The amount given to each person was reportedly $9 (€8.2) per person.

In a video broadcast on a rebel television channel, Al-Masirah, bodies are seen piled up and people climbing on top of each other in an attempt to clear their way.

Some try to push their hands away from their faces so they can breathe, with the rest of their bodies completely engulfed in the dense crowd. Armed fighters in military gear are seen pushing them in the opposite direction.

A senior Houthi official attributed the disaster to "overcrowding" in a narrow street leading to the school. When the doors opened, the crowd rushed up the stairs leading to the playground where the distribution was planned, said Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of the rebels' Supreme Political Council.

But some witnesses say gunshots caused the crowd to move.

The victims were transported to nearby hospitals and the organisers of the event were arrested, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the rebel news agency, Saba.

Relatives crowded in front of a local hospital to get news of loved ones, but security forces prevented them from entering the building, noted an AFP journalist.

An investigation looking into the cause of the accident has been set up.

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