UN disappointed over Houthi remarks on oil tanker Safer repair

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UNITED NATIONS, July 26 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations is disappointed by Houthi rebels' comments on the derelict tanker Safer carrying 1.1 million barrels of oil in danger of spilling, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

"From what the United Nations can understand, the Houthis are demanding advance guarantees that the United Nations will complete all the potential light maintenance activities in the mission plan," said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "The SAFER is a very dangerous site, and advance guarantees -- before verifying conditions onboard -- are not possible. That is also why the November 2020 agreement explicitly conditions the light maintenance activities on the safety environment we find onboard."

The rusting storage tanker has been off the port city of Hodeidah since 1988, endangering the environment and livelihoods of thousands of people along Yemen's Red Sea coast should it leak out or there is an explosion. A leak of seawater into the engine room last year was stopped by divers applying an emergency patch.

The world organization has prepared a team to board the vessel, inspect it to determine what work needs to be done and conduct emergency repairs. Still, it needs a green light from the Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, since they control the tanker.

"For a UN-led solution, that starts with an assessment and, if it's safe enough, some light maintenance that the UN hopes will buy a bit more time for a longer-term solution," Haq said. "We also remain open-minded regarding any other safe, quick solutions to this problem."

The Houthis want more substantial maintenance starting with the initial assessment visit. The organization said that following the first look, it would take time to order in the necessary personnel and heavy equipment to carry out more significant maintenance.

The fate of the Safer is not the only threat to the port city.

Heavy rains are causing flooding from Hodeidah to the traditional capital of Sanaa and the northern governorate of al-Jawf, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. On Tuesday, the rains are forecast to include the Governorate of Taiz to the south.

The area includes where people displaced by conflict from other locations are sheltering.

"Humanitarian agencies are working with local authorities to identify needs and to provide initial assistance," the office said. "Priorities include shelter, food, water, and essential household items."

More rain and storms are expected in much of the country over the next 24 hours, including medium to heavy rainfall in flood-prone areas, including Taiz governorate, OCHA said. Enditem

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