Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. Eight people were killed and dozens others injured in a crush outside a Cameroonian football stadium ahead of an Africa Cup of Nations match, officials said Tuesday.
Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered an investigation into the tragedy that occurred Monday as crowds attempted to enter Olembe stadium in the capital Yaounde to watch the host nation play Comoros.
Although the stadium’s capacity of 60,000 had been limited over the coronavirus pandemic, the cap is raised to 80 percent when Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions play.
“Eight deaths were recorded, two women in their 30s, four men in their 30s, one child, one body taken away by the family,” said a preliminary health ministry report obtained by AFP.
The ministry said victims were “immediately transported” in ambulances, but “heavy road traffic slowed down the transport”.
Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi said that 38 people were injured in the crush, including seven seriously, according to a statement.
The health ministry reported earlier that around 50 people were injured, including two people with multiple injuries and two more with serious head wounds.
A baby was also reportedly trampled by the crowd, the ministry added. The infant was “immediately extracted and taken to Yaounde General Hospital” and is in a “medically stable” condition, it added.
President Biya has “ordered the opening of an investigation so that all light is shed on this tragic incident,” the communications minister said.
Africa Cup of Nations organising committee spokesperson Abel Mbengue told AFP: “There was a crush as can happen when there is a stampede. We are waiting for reliable information on the number of casualties in this tragic incident”.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which runs the continent’s flagship competition, said it was “investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired”.
In a statement online, the organisation said it had sent its secretary general to “visit the supporters in hospital in Yaounde”.
It added it was in “constant communication with Cameroon government and the Local Organizing Committee”.
Cameroon’s health minister Manaouda Malachie tweeted images showing him visiting a hospital treating those hurt in the incident.
“Everything is done to give them free care and the best support,” he tweeted.
The CAF will hold a “crisis meeting” with the organising committee on Tuesday, dedicated exclusively to security issues in the stadiums, a source close to CAF told AFP.
The government, Sadi said, is “once more appealing to Cameroonians’ sense of responsibility, discipline and civic duty for the total success of this great sporting event.”
Cameroon was initially meant to host the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, but the event was moved to Egypt over concerns Cameroon’s stadiums were not prepared for the games.
The CAF cited delays in the construction of stadiums and infrastructure projects, as well as question marks over security.
Overcrowding at football matches around the world has resulted in scores of deaths.
Thousands of fans in the Egyptian capital Cairo in 2015 attempted to enter a stadium to watch a game, triggering panic as police fired tear gas and birdshot, and resulting in 19 dead.
In April 2001, 43 people died in a stampede at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium during a game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
And in Guatemala in October 1996, 90 people were killed in a crush during a World Cup qualification match between the host nation and Costa Rica at an overpacked stadium.
On the pitch, Cameroon sealed their place in the last eight of the tournament with a 2-1 win and will now play The Gambia in the quarter-finals.
The Comoros side had qualified for the last 16 in their first-ever appearance at the Cup of Nations.