HAJJAH, Yemen, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Almost four years after the Yemeni government forces recaptured the Red Sea coastal city of Midi in the northwestern province of Hajjah from the Houthi rebels in April 2018, local visitors began to return to the city's beach.
Local authorities allowed visits to the beach in December of last year, after spending nearly four years to remove the landmines that had been planted in the beach and some parts of the city, which is a few miles to the east of the beach and has become an abandoned site as a result of the Yemeni civil war that broke out in 2014.
"We are very happy today, because the authorities allowed us to walk on the beach and swim in the sea. Since the war broke out, we yearn to swim in the sea," said Ali Abdu, a teacher who has joined more than 100 primary and preparatory school students to visit the beach.
"The war has affected all of us, especially children, most of whom suffer from war trauma. Therefore, this trip to the beach for fun may help them a lot to forget the tragedies and pains of the war," Abdu added.
The civil war in Yemen erupted in late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took over several northern provinces and forced the Saudi-backed Yemeni government out of the capital Sanaa.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced 4 million, and pushed the country to the brink of starvation, causing what the United Nations says is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Before the war, Midi's beach, parks, hotels, and restaurants were bustling with visitors from all Yemeni provinces throughout the year, and hundreds of jobs were available, recalled Abdullah Mutanbek, a teacher and supervisor of the trip.
The trip is Mutanbek's first visit to the beach since the civil war broke out. "It's terrifying to see how much damage has been done here. Tourist facilities, chalets, swimming pools, restaurants, hotels, and roads are all destroyed. Rusted bullet casings and other wartime debris are still widely scattered along the beach," he said.
Despite the fact that locals were allowed to access the beach, the area is far from safe. In some areas of the region, demining operations are still underway.
According to the statistics local government officials showed to Xinhua this week, the military demining teams have removed and destroyed more than 50,000 mines and explosive devices in and around Midi since 2018, including 52 naval mines.
There aren't many people around and there aren't any services on the beach, however, the visitors are quite happy that life has returned to the deserted beach.
While the students played and swam in the Red Sea, some teachers set up a tent nearby and started preparing lunch for them. Their laughter could be heard constantly.
"We lit the fire to cook meat and rice to feed our students and make them feel happy," school teacher Hasan Musbeh Jerbahi told Xinhua.
"It is an indescribable feeling that we are back to play and swim in the sea for the first time since the civil war broke out more than seven years ago. I'm very happy," said Yahya Mousa, a student from the school.
"I wish the civil war ends very soon and the happy life comes back to all Yemenis," the 17-year-old student added.