Famine puts 7 million Yemenis at risk, aid group warns

  • As Dozens are trapped after Iran coal mine explosion that kills 2

The lives of some seven million people are at risk in war-ravaged Yemen due to famine, an aid group warned on Wednesday.

Jan Egeland, the Head of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Cairo stated this after a tour of the impoverished Arab country.

He said “the world is letting some seven million men, women and children to be slowly engulfed by unprecedented famine.”

He added that 60 per cent of Yemen’s 27 million people were food insecure “and this makes Yemen the world’s largest food security crisis zone.”

Yemen is locked in conflict with regional and religious dimensions, pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-allied rebels who seized the capital Sana’a and surrounding areas in late 2014.

The war intensified since March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni Muslim countries begun air campaign against the mostly Shiite rebels.

Saudi Arabia fears that the rebels will give its regional rival Shiite Iran a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

However, Yemen suffered from poverty, the lack of development and environmental problems even before the conflict escalated.

In the meantime, a large explosion struck a coal mine in northern Iran on Wednesday, trapping dozens of miners and killing at least two, state media reported.

Ambulances, helicopters and other rescue vehicles raced to the scene in Iran’s northern Golestan province as authorities worked to determine the scale of the emergency.

The IRNA news agency quoted Golestan provincial emergency management department head Sadeq Ali Moghadam as saying that 40 to 50 people are believed to be trapped in the mine outside of the town of Azadshahr. Press TV, the English-language arm of Iranian state television, said two workers had died.

Provincial spokesman Ali Yazerloo said the blast happened at 12:45 p.m. local time (0945 GMT) and that the provincial governor is heading to the scene. Several officials blamed the explosion on accumulated gas and said it was affecting rescue efforts.

At least 25 people who had entered the mine to try to save those trapped had to be taken to the hospital after inhaling the gas, said Hamidreza Montazeri, the deputy head of the emergency management department in Golestan.

Iranian news reports said the explosion happened while workers were changing shifts.

Semi-official Iranian news agencies posted pictures online from the scene, showing ambulances and emergency workers gathered at the mouth of the mine. Some images showed dazed workers, covered in coal dust, being helped by bystanders or laying on the ground as rescuers rushed past with oxygen bottles.

More than 500 workers are employed at the Zemestanyurt mine, which lies 14 kilometers (9 miles) from Azadshahr, according to IRNA. Golestan sits along Iran’s northern border with Turkmenistan and along the shore of the Caspian Sea.

Nation with additional report from ABC