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UN says fire damages two food silos near Yemen's Hodeida

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Sanaa (AFP)

A fire on the edge of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida has reportedly damaged two food silos, the UN said Friday, adding it appeared a mortar shell hit storage facilities.

"We are very concerned that some of our wheat stocks at the Red Sea Mills have been damaged," said the UN World Food Programme's Yemen director Stephen Anderson, quoted in a statement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The WFP has 51,000 metric tonnes of wheat stored at the Red Sea Mills site on Hodeida's outskirts, but has been unable to access the site since September last year, due to fighting, the statement said.

Government forces, supported by a regional coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have battled to oust Iran-backed Huthi rebels from the lifeline port city.

UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden last month brought about a fragile truce for Hodeida, but the embattled government on Thursday accused the rebels of failing to abide by its terms.

"WFP urgently needs to get access to the Red Sea Mills so we can assess the level of damage and begin transporting the unaffected wheat stocks to areas of Yemen where it is desperately needed," Anderson added.

The UN agency's stores at the facility represent a quarter of its wheat stock in the country -- enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month -- the OCHA statement said.

Yemen's war has pushed 14 million people to the brink of famine in what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"The situation in Yemen is heart-breaking," said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande, in the statement.

"A quarter of a million people are in a catastrophic condition, facing near starvation if assistance doesn?t get to them. We need this wheat," she added.

The UAE's official news agency WAM accused the Huthi rebels of targeting the mills with a mortar shell, causing what it described as a huge fire that destroyed a large quantity of wheat.

There was no immediate response from the Huthis.

Yemen's state-run Saba news agency said Friday that five soldiers and a child were also killed by an exploding landmine in Al-Baida in central Yemen.

It quoted a military source who said the soldiers were trying to assist "wounded civilians targeted by another landmine in the same area" and accused the Huthis of planting the landmines.

Yemen's conflict has killed some 10,000 people since the Saudi-led military coalition intervened to support the government in March 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

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