Yemen's internationally-recognized government warned on Wednesday of looming explosion of Safir floating storage and offloading (FSO) facility off Hodeida on the Red Sea, accusing Houthis of denying a UN repair team access to the reservoir.
The FSO "blast is imminent in light of the tanker's badly deteriorating condition," the official ministry of oil said in a statement carried by the Riyadh-based Saba, warning of "the gravest environmental disaster in history."
The ministry accused the Houthi group of obdurately denying a UN and other repair teams access to assess damages and renovate the facility, in preparation for discharging and selling its oil load.
By their actions, Houthis "are blatantly challenging the United Nations and international community, and persistently reneging their words to allow access for the UN team that arrived in Djibouti last month," it said.
The statement criticized the UN, following its humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock's briefing to the UNSC, as "the government expected a serious move forcing these militias into implementation, by all ways, not only holding them accountable."
The ministry urged the UN, international community and organizations concerned with environment to rapidly intervene, pressure Houthis into allowing access for the repair teams, and prevent an "environmental catastrophe from which the region would not recover for long years."
On 22 August, the UN said its team had arrived in Djibouti en route to Yemen to check and assess the Safir FSO facility.
On 27 August, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the team's mission was dependent on technical arrangements and weather conditions, as the team intended first to carry out a technical assessment and initial maintenance, if possible.
On 18 July, the UN's Lowcock told the Security Council that Houthis had refused again to give UN officials permits to visit Safir FSO, as the vessel risking the leakage of 1.1 million barrels into the Red Sea.
The UN assessment team intended to examine the vessel next week, the UN official said in his briefing to the UNSC, but "the needed permits are still pending at Houthi authorities.
Should the vessel erode or explode, "we could see polluted coast along the Red Sea. Based on the period of time and movement of water currents, the leakage could expand from Bab al-Mandeb to Suez Canal, or even the Strait of Hormuz," he warned.
The Yemeni state-owned Safir is a vessel that was turned to FSO. Since 2014, it has been within the range of Houthi fire, and received no repairs, despite its overdue life expectancy.
Yemen has been racked by a 4.5-year bloody conflict between the Yemeni internationally-recognized government's forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who ousted the government in September 2014.
The war has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with most of the population in need for a type of humanitarian aid and immediate protection, including 14 million people risking famine and some 1.8 million children suffering malnutrition.