At least eight people, including a child, have died in what has been described as a stampede outside a stadium in Cameroon ahead of an Africa Cup of Nations match.
About 50 people have been injured and multiple supporters have reportedly been hospitalised as well, with images on social media showing fans breaking through gates at the Olembe Stadium in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde.
Other images show supporters climbing over fences and people being trampled while unconscious on the ground ahead of Cameroon’s match against Comoros on Monday evening.
There were reports of a crush as people made their way into the stadium and news outlet LSI Africa reported that those injured were transported to the nearby Messassi Hospital.
The hospital quickly became overwhelmed and said it could not handle all the injured people, and four more hospitals had to be drafted in to help.
‘Eight deaths were recorded, two women in their thirties, four men in their thirties, one child, one body taken away by the family,’ said a preliminary health ministry report obtained by AFP.
A baby was also reportedly trampled by the crowd – the ministry said it was in a ‘medically stable’ condition after being ‘immediately extracted’.
According to document posted to Twitter detailing the fatalities shared by reporters, the youngest victim of the stampede was a six-year-old girl.
Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered an investigation into the tragedy, and added that there could be more casualties, saying: ‘we are not in position to give you the total number of casualties.’
Some 38 people were injured in the crush, including two people with multiple injures and two more with serious head wounds, the ministry said.
‘Some of the injured are in desperate condition,’ said Olinga Prudence, a nurse. ‘We will have to evacuate them to a specialised hospital.’
The health ministry report also said the victims’ journey to hospital by ambulance was disrupted, as ‘heavy road traffic slowed [them] down’.
A witness said the stampede at the south entrance of the stadium happened because supporters were directed by security officials toward an entrance gate that was locked.
The gate was eventually opened, the witness said, causing a surge and people were trampled. Children were caught up in the stampede, the witness said.
‘When the security guys finally began opening the gates, with all the anxiety and after having been locked out … people pushed the security guys away and forced themselves inside,’ said the witness, Marie Asongafack.
‘That’s where it all began … By the time I found myself in front, there were people on the ground being trampled on.’
Medical help wasn’t immediately available, ‘so people were just trying their basic first aid on victims’, Ms Asongafack said.
‘I saw a child less than 10 years old, lifeless. Guys were trying to revive him.’
Officials said around 50,000 people had tried to attend the match.
The stadium has a capacity of 60,000 but it was not meant to be more than 80 per cent full – a capacity of 48,000 – for the game due to restrictions on the size of the crowd because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Free tickets have been handed out to encourage more fans to attend the matches after low attendances were recorded for some of the tournament’s earlier fixtures.
Manaouda Malachie, the health minister of Cameroon said: ‘Everything is done to give them free care and the best support.’
‘There was a crush as can happen when there is a stampede,’ a spokesman for the Africa Cup of Nations organising committee told AFP. ‘We are waiting for reliable information on the number of casualties in this tragic incident.’
Despite the incident, the match did kick-off on time as Cameroon beat Comoros 2-1 to seal their place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals, where they will play The Gambia.
A statement from tournament organisers CAF (Confederation of African Football) read: ‘CAF is aware of the incident that took place at Olembe Stadium during the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations fixture between hosts Cameroon and Comoros tonight, 24 January 2022.
‘CAF is currently investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired.
‘We are in constant communication with Cameroon government and the Local Organizing Committee.
‘Tonight, the CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe sent the General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba to visit the supporters in hospital in Yaounde.’
Cameroon is hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in 50 years – it was meant to host the tournament in 2019 but the event was taken away that year and awarded to Egypt because of serious concerns with Cameroon’s preparations, particularly the readiness of its stadiums.
Olembe Stadium was one of the venues that was under scrutiny.
Monday’s incident was the second serious blow to the country in the space of a day, after at least 17 people died from a fire set off by a series of explosions at a nightclub in Yaounde on Sunday.
Following that incident, Cameroon President Paul Biya urged the country to be on guard while it hosts its biggest national sports event in a half century.
Cameroon is also torn by on going civil war, with armed Anglophone separatists fighting for independence from the French-speaking majority. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 700,000 forced from their homes since 2016.
The separatists had threatened to disrupt the AFCON games staged in the south west of the country.
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.
culled from Daily Maily online