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At least 60 dead in Ivory Coast stampede

January 01, 2013|By Robyn Dixon
  • U.N. peacekeepers stand next to shoes and other items lying on the pavement at the scene of a stampede in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Tuesday.
U.N. peacekeepers stand next to shoes and other items lying on the pavement… (Herve Sevi / Agence France-Presse…)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — At least 60 people died and about 200 were injured Tuesday in a stampede that followed a fireworks display at a football stadium in the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan, according to emergency officials.

Most of the dead and injured were children and teenagers.

The stampede happened in the early hours of the morning as crowds were leaving the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium after a New Year's Eve fireworks display ended about 2 a.m. It is not known what triggered the stampede, officials said.

Local television RTI reported that the crowd panicked after the fireworks ended, triggering the massing of people in the Plateau neighborhood, the downtown area of Abidjan.

"In the crush, people were walked over and suffocated by the crowd," Issa Sako, head of the military rescue effort, told RTI. Distraught parents combed hospitals and morgues searching for their children.

"I saw all the bodies, but I cannot find my son. I don't know what to do," said one parent, Mamadou Sanogo, of her 9-year-old boy, according to local French-language news website L'infodrome.

Local hospital staff said the death toll was likely to rise due to serious injuries and the lack of blood for transfusions, according to news agencies. Government officials said the cause of the crush was being investigated.

There were blood stains and lost shoes scattered about the scene after dawn, Reuters news service reported.

"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?" Assetou Toure, a cleaner, told Reuters. She did not know if her children survived.

One woman who narrowly escaped being crushed told Agence France-Presse she went to fireworks display with her two children.

"I don't know what happened but I found myself lying on the ground with people stepping on me, pulling my hair or tearing my clothes," said the woman, who gave her name only as Zeinab. She said she “hurt all over.”

She found her small son in a hospital bed looking dazed. The fate of the other child was not clear.

Tuesday's catastrophe was much worse than an Abidjan soccer stadium stampede in 2009 that killed 19, when sporting officials sold too many seats to a qualifying match for the soccer World Cup.

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