Saudi-led air strikes on a missile depot in Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Monday sparked explosions that left at least 28 people dead and nearly 300 wounded, flattening houses and shaking faraway neighbourhoods.
Many more people were feared to have been killed after two strikes hit the hilltop depot, leaving a trail of destruction in the Fajj Attan area of Sanaa which was covered in thick clouds of smoke.
A coalition of Sunni Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia launched the air campaign against the Huthi Shiite rebels last month, vowing to restore the authority of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh as the militiamen advanced on his southern refuge of Aden.
Riyadh has accused Iran, the main Shiite power, of backing the rebels and fears a Tehran-friendly regime taking control of the country on its southern border.
Monday’s strikes triggered a series of blasts that sent shockwaves across Sanaa, leaving cars mangled, buildings gutted and streets completely scattered with debris.
Fires broke out at the missile base and a nearby petrol station, witnesses said, and the scorching heat could be felt from a distance.
Civilians were seen emerging from their shattered homes in the aftermath, some carrying suitcases and apparently stunned at the scale of the destruction outside.
Hours later, medics said the number of civilians killed was now at least 28, up from 18, including three television station employees. Almost 300 people were wounded.
The targeted base belongs to the missile brigade of the elite Republican Guard, which remained loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who has been accused of siding with the Huthi rebels in their fight against the government.
The Huthis have seized control of large parts of the Arabian Peninsula nation, including Sanaa, and fought fierce battles with pro-government forces.
The Saudi-led coalition says it has carried out more than 2,000 strikes since the start of the campaign, gaining complete control of Yemeni airspace and knocking out rebel infrastructure.
But its spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, gave no comment about today’s blasts in Sanaa during his daily media briefing.
Fighting continued in the south between advancing rebels and local fighters who have sided with Hadi. Eleven rebels and five southern fighters were killed in Huta, the provincial capital of Lahj, the military said.