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Houthis agree to give UN access to stranded tanker

SANAA (Press TV): Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has agreed to provide the United Nations with access to an abandoned oil tanker that risks causing environmental disaster off the western coast of the country.

Two unnamed UN sources, familiar with the matter, announced the news in interviews with Reuters on Sunday, a few days after the world body said it had become extremely concerned after water entered the engine room of the Safer tanker.

For over five years the Ill-fated vessel, which carries 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, has been marooned several kilometers outside the Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa, north of the major port city of Hudaydah.

The vital terminal was used for exporting Ma’rib’s light crude oil before a Saudi-led military coalition laid a crippling and simultaneous aerial, naval, and land blockade on Yemen.

The sources further told Reuters that Houthis, who control the port, had sent a letter approving the deployment of a United Nations technical team to the stranded tanker, which is said to contain 34 crude oil tanks of different sizes and volumes, amounting to a total capacity of about 3 million barrels.

In June last year, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that a leak or explosion of the vessel could be much worse than the Exxon Valdez oil spill of the late 1980s in Alaska.

“If the tanker ruptures or explodes, we could see the coastline polluted all along the Red Sea,” Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said at the time.

“Depending on the time of year and water currents, the spill could reach from Bab el-Mandeb to the Suez Canal, and potentially as far as the Strait of Hormuz,” he added.

The UNSC is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Safer tanker issue.

A Saudi-led coalition comprised of a number of allies invaded Yemen in March 2015 to restore power to its former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and crush Ansarullah, whose fighters have been of significant help to the Yemeni army in defending the country against the invaders.

The ongoing war has so far killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and pushed the entire country close to the brink of famine.

The imposed war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.

The United Nations says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger as the invaders keep obstructing inflow of direly-need supplies.

In another development, nearly a dozen civilians, mostly women and children, have been killed when Saudi military aircraft struck a residential area in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its bombardment campaign against its southern neighbor.

Saudi fighter jets carried out an airstrike on a neighborhood in the Washhah district of the province on Sunday afternoon, leaving ten people dead and two others injured, unnamed local sources told Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network.

Earlier in the day, Saudi-led warplanes conducted three air raids on the Shada’a district and another two on the al-Dhaher district of the northern Yemeni province of Sa’ada.

There were, however, no immediate reports on possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Separately, Saudi jets bombarded Boq district close to the border with the kingdom’s southern region of Najran, though no reports of casualties and damage were quickly available.

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