A blaze erupted at an oil refinery on Tuesday in the Yemeni port of Aden after it was hit by rockets, with fierce confrontations intensifying between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and pro-government fighters, Yemeni officials have said. The Saudi-led coalition accused the Houthis of firing the rockets which caused the fire, while Houthis said Saudi air strikes were responsible.
Nasser Shayef, the spokesman for the facility, said that the Houthis targeted the refinery on Monday, warning that the result of the fire may be a “humanitarian and environmental catastrophe.”
The fire erupted when rockets hit pipelines inside the refinery. Shayef said the fire which spread overnight threatens to reach nearby reservoirs. Civil defence units with the support of residents of Aden’s Buraiqa district are attempting to contain the blaze.
Houthi fighters allied with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have attacked the neighbourhood several times, which is held by southern fighters allied with exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
According to Houthi-run media, the fire in the refinery was caused by bombing by Saudi-led coalition warplanes.
No oil has been sent to the refinery recently, but 1.2 million tonnes of crude and many gas tanks are still in storage.
Despite a UN-declared six-day ceasefire that formally began before midnight on Friday, fighting and air bombardment in Yemen have persisted.
Oxfam, an international charity providing humanitarian aid in Yemen, has said that the fighting and fuel import restriction has affected food deliveries, health services and water supplies all over the country which has led to a humanitarian crisis.
A Saudi-led coalition began an extensive air campaign targeting Houthi-held cities across Yemen on March 26 in order to allow President Hadi and his government, who are in self imposed exile in Riyadh, to return to the country’s capital.
The United Nations has declared the maximum level of humanitarian emergency in Yemen, and warned of an imminent collapse of the country’s health system.
Around 20 million Yemenis suffer from a lack of water and a million people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the armed conflict.
Oxfam has warned that at least 400,000 Yemeni children are at risk of becoming severely malnourished if the situation in Yemen continues.
In the city of Aden alone, more than 858 Yemeni civilians were killed, including 259 children, and 6,879 others were wounded in the first 102 days of conflict.
More than 3,000 people, including 1,500 civilians, have been killed in the conflict since March, according to the UN.