At least 40 people died in a blast at a dairy complex in western Yemen on Wednesday as warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition continued to pummel insurgent positions across the country.
The circumstances of the explosion that all but leveled the site in the port city of Hodeida were not clear. Some witnesses and officials blamed Saudi airstrikes and others attributed the blast to artillery fire from the Houthis, a Shiite Muslim rebel group. The Associated Press cited two military officials as saying the premises had been used to store weapons.
The Interior Ministry reported 80 people injured, some critically, in addition to at least 40 killed, and said the death toll was likely to rise.
The fierce airstrikes by the Saudi-led regional coalition that began last week continued, targeting bases and weapons depots of the Houthis, who are fighting alongside loyalists of the country’s deposed president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
With the aid of elite military units, the insurgents seized the capital, Sana, last September and recently had been closing in on the port city of Aden, the country’s commercial hub.
The Houthis are aligned with Shiite Iran, although the Tehran government denies arming them. The coalition they face is drawn from Sunni Muslim-majority states and backs current President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee the country last week.
With civilian casualties mounting, Yemen’s hospitals are overwhelmed, and local rights groups reported that bodies were strewn in the streets of Aden, where the rebels continued to press their offensive. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster, saying those killed so far included dozens of children.
The Saudi bombing campaign has sparked outrage in Iran, where official media denounce the airstrikes daily. Senior Iranian officials have been making the rounds in regional capitals to argue against the coalition’s campaign.
Saudi Arabia launched the strikes the day after Hadi fled the country. The kingdom seeks the president’s reinstatement, and also aims to secure its long border with Yemen and keep vital oil-shipping lanes open.
Special correspondent Al-Alayaa reported from Sana and Times staff writer King from Cairo.
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