(CNN) Dozens of people were killed in a stampede in Yemen’s capital Wednesday to collect charity handouts from local merchants during the holy month of Ramadan, authorities confirmed.
Video of the tragedy in Sana’a showed a chaotic scene of dozens of people packed tightly together, unable to move and screaming for help.
Those trapped form a wall of bodies, some desperately reaching out their hands for help. A couple who are independent can be seen trying to pull others out of the attraction.
“What happened tonight was a tragic and painful accident, dozens of people were killed due to the random distribution of money by some merchants and the massive crowding of a large number of citizens without coordination with the Ministry of Interior.” Abdul-Khaliq al-Ajri, a spokesman for the Houthi-run interior ministry, said in a statement.
At least 78 people were killed and dozens wounded in the crackdown, Mutahar al-Marouni, director of the Houthi-run health office in Sana’a, told the Houthi-run al-Masira news agency.
According to Reuters, hundreds of people flocked to the school to receive donations of 5,000 Yemeni riyals (about $9).
The incident took place days before the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. At this time of the month, people start giving Zakat al-Fitr, or Zakat for breaking the Ramadan fast, to those in need.
Police and rescue teams have rushed to the spot, according to a Home Ministry statement.
“The dead and injured have been shifted to hospitals and two businessmen responsible for the matter have been arrested,” the statement added.
Mahdi al-Mashad, head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, ordered an investigation into the incident on Thursday.
The Houthi-run General Authority for Zakat announced in a statement that it would pay one million Yemeni riyals (about $4,000) to each family affected by the stampede.
It said it would take care of the treatment of the injured and pay 200,000 Yemeni riyals (about $800) to each injured person.
The world’s worst humanitarian crisis
Yemen is the worst country in the world, according to the UN Humanitarian crisis. The nine-year war has killed thousands, destroyed the economy and left 21.6 million people — two-thirds of the country’s population — in need of humanitarian aid. Tens of thousands of Yemenis are starving, UN says.
Conflict of the country It started as a civil war in 2014, Houthi forces stormed the capital, Sanaa, toppling the internationally recognized and Saudi-backed government. It turned into a wider war in 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened to try to defeat the Houthis.
But it did eventually A proxy war Iran — accused of arming the Houthis — is between Saudi Arabia and a key arena in their contest for regional influence.
On Sunday, a Saudi delegation arrived in Sana’a for talks with the Houthis Aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire. Last Friday, the three-day prisoner exchange talks yielded nearly 900 prisoners from both sides and yielded huge results. Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted on Friday that the talks were “intense and positive”.“