No fewer than 60 people were crushed to death in a stampede outside a stadium in Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan after a New Year’s Eve fireworks display, the government said yesterday The incident took place near Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium where a crowd had gathered to watch fireworks, emergency officials said.
One of the injured, speaking to Reuters at a hospital, said security forces had arrived to break up the crowd, triggering a panic in which many people fell over and were trampled. “The provisional death toll is 60 and there are 49 injured,” Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in a statement broadcast on national television. “The government extends its condolences to the families of those deceased and assures them of its solidarity,” Bakayoko said.
President Alassane Ouattara, visiting injured people at the hospital, called the incident a national tragedy and said an investigation was underway to determine what happened. The 60 dead included 26 children, 28 women and six men, said Minister of Youth Alain Lobognon, via his official Twitter feed, after visiting the hospital morgue where the bodies were taken. The official AIP news agency earlier said the victims were all children, ranging in age from eight to 15. Bakayoko said the tragedy happened as hundreds of people were trying to go back home after the fireworks display ended in Plateau, the city’s central business district.
It’s still not clear exactly what triggered the stampede at about 1 a.m. Reports vary as to what caused the crush. Many of the victims were trampled on or suffocated by the surging crowd, a senior fire official said on national television. But Lt Col Issa Sako, head of the military rescue effort, told reporters that “The great mass of people caused a very large stampede which caused 60 deaths, more than 200 people were injured. In the stampede, some people were trampled and suffocated by the crowd.”
Rescue workers were at the scene two hours later but could not save the victims, the AIP news agency said. At least two hospitals in the city have received the wounded, some reportedly with life-threatening injuries. A Reuters correspondent said blood stains and abandoned shoes littered the scene outside the stadium yesterday morning. “My two children came here yesterday.
I told them not to come but they didn’t listen. They came when I was sleeping. What will I do?” said Assetou Toure, a cleaner. She did not know if her children had escaped unhurt. The incident was the worst of its kind in Abidjan since 2010, when a stampede at a stadium during a football match killed 18 people. Ivory Coast, once a stable economic hub for West Africa, is struggling to recover from a 2011 civil war in which more than 3,000 people were killed.