UN warns of ‘catastrophe’ at Yemen’s Hodeidah port

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that the destruction of the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, a vital lifeline for millions of starving civilians, could trigger a "catastrophic" situation.

Medics and military sources say at least 149 people have been killed in 24 hours of heavy clashes as government loyalists, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, fight to oust Houthi rebels from the Red Sea city.

"If the port at Hodeidah is destroyed, that could create an absolutely catastrophic situation," Mr Guterres told France Inter radio during a trip to Paris.

Yemen is already facing a "disastrous" humanitarian situation, Mr Guterres said, adding: "The hostilities must stop."

The Saudi-led coalition currently "appears determined to take Hodeidah, which in my opinion will still not allow the real start of a political solution", Mr Guterres said.

"The fighting must stop, a political debate must begin, and we must prepare a massive humanitarian response to avoid the worst next year. "

Mr Guterres said there was "an opportunity to make the direct parties in the conflict – the Houthis, the government, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – understand that this is ultimately a war that no one is winning."

He added that there was "a consensus, between the United States, Russia, Europe and many states in the region, that it is finally time to end this conflict".

"There is already a framework for a solution which has been presented to the different parties," he said.

"The early reaction has been relatively positive but in my opinion things are frozen due to the Hodeidah situation."

The UN is already providing food aid to some eight million Yemenis but that number could reach 14 million next year, Mr Guterres warned.