61 crushed to death in stampede
Updated: 2013-01-03 07:57
By Agencies in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (China Daily)
People wounded from a stampede that occurred after a New Year's Eve fireworks display are seen in Cocody's Hospital in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, on Tuesday. At least 61 people were crushed to death outside a stadium in Abidjan, the government said. Thierry Gouegnon / Reuters
Incident further exacerbates Cote d'Ivoire's civil war wounds
At least 61 people were crushed to death in a stampede after a New Year's Eve fireworks display at a stadium in Cote d'Ivoire's main city Abidjan early on Tuesday, officials said.
The country began on Wednesday three days of national mourning after a stampede among crowds gathered for celebratory New Year's Eve fireworks in Abidjan left at least 61 dead and dozens injured.
Witnesses said police had tried to control crowds around the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium following the celebrations, triggering a panic in which scores were trampled.
"The estimate we can give right now is 49 people hospitalized ... and 61 people dead," said the chief of staff of Abidjan's fire department Issa Sacko. The average age of the dead was 18, according to government information.
Crying women searched for missing family members outside the stadium on Tuesday morning. Piles of abandoned shoes and clothing could also be seen at the stadium, where soldiers and police were deployed, along with UN peacekeepers.
"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.
Sanata Zoure, a market vendor injured in the incident, said New Year's revellers going home after watching the fireworks had been stopped by police near the stadium.
"We were walking with our children and we came upon barricades, and people started falling into each other. We were trampled with our children," she said.
Another witness said police arrived to control the crowd after a mob began chasing a pickpocket.
"This is a real tragedy on this New Year's Day," President Alassane Ouattara said.
He called the deaths a national tragedy and said an investigation was under way to find out what happened.
"I hope that we can determine what caused this drama so that we can ensure it never happens again," he said after visiting the injured in hospital.
Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said the "exact circumstances" of the tragedy are "under investigation by the security services".
Cote d'Ivoire's security forces once were among the best trained in the region, but a decade of political turmoil and the 2011 war has left them in disarray.