Cargo ship sinks off Yemeni coast, sparking environmental disaster fears

British cargo ship Rubymar, which was attacked by the Houthi group on Feb. 18, 2024, anchoring near the coast of Yemen. [Xinhua]

Yemen's internationally recognized government announced on Saturday the cargo ship Rubymar sank off the coast of Yemen Friday night amid stormy weather conditions.

In a statement released by the state-run Saba news agency, the government said Rubymar, a cargo ship abandoned for over 12 days after being attacked by the Houthi group,  has sunk off the coast of Yemen.

The British-owned, Belize-flagged ship carries thousands of tons of fertilizer and oil. The government expressed regret over the sinking, warning against a possible major environmental disaster in Yemen's territorial waters.

On Feb. 18th, the Houthis fired two missiles at Rubymar while it was passing through the Red Sea, partially damaging the ship. The Houthis claimed they believed the ship was carrying weapons bound for Israel.

Despite appeals from the Yemeni government over the past 12 days to avoid catastrophe, Rubymar could not be secured and sank Friday night amid rough seas.

The Yemeni government convened an emergency meeting following the incident to address the imminent environmental fallout.

On Monday, the Yemeni government renewed its calls for international assistance to help contain a potential massive oil spill from the sunken cargo ship. An emergency committee has also been formed to deal with the impending crisis.

The Houthis have stepped up their attacks on international shipping since mid-November last year, saying they were in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza who faced intense Israeli attacks.

The U.S.-British forces since January have responded with dozens of airstrikes on Houthi targets, including mobile missile launchers and underwater drones, but have failed to deter the group from launching more attacks.