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.
President Paul Biya of Cameroon has ordered an investigation into the tragedy that occurred Monday as fans attempted to enter Olembe stadium in Yaounde to watch Cameroon play Comoros.
The stadium’s 60,000-seat capacity has been reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, but when Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions play, the limit is raised to 80%.
“Two women in their 30s, four men in their 30s, one child, and one body taken away by the family were recorded,” according to a preliminary health ministry report obtained by AFP.
The victims were “immediately transported” in ambulances, according to the ministry, but “heavy road traffic slowed the transport.”
According to a statement from Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi, 38 people were injured in the crush, with seven of them critically injured.
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Around 50 people were injured, according to the health ministry, with two people suffering multiple injuries and two others suffering serious head wounds.
According to the ministry, a baby was also trampled by the crowd. The baby was “immediately extracted and taken to Yaounde General Hospital,” according to the statement, and is in “medically stable” condition.
According to the communications minister, President Biya has “ordered the opening of an investigation so that all light can be shed on this tragic incident.”
“There was a crush as can happen when there is a stampede,” Abel Mbengue, a spokesperson for the Africa Cup of Nations organizing committee, told AFP. We are awaiting accurate information on the number of people killed or injured in this tragic incident.”
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which oversees the continent’s premier tournament, said it was “investigating the situation and attempting to obtain more details on what transpired.”
The organization said in an online statement that its secretary general had been dispatched to “visit the supporters in hospital in Yaounde.”
It also stated that it was in “constant communication with the government of Cameroon as well as the Local Organizing Committee.”
Manaouda Malachie, Cameroon’s health minister, tweeted photos of himself visiting a hospital treating those injured in the incident.
“Everything is being done to provide them with free medical care and the best possible support,” he tweeted.
A source close to the CAF told AFP that the CAF will hold a “crisis meeting” with the organizing committee on Tuesday, dedicated solely to security issues in the stadiums.
“For the total success of this great sporting event,” Sadi said, the government is “again appealing to Cameroonians’ sense of responsibility, discipline, and civic duty.”
The Africa Cup of Nations was supposed to be held in Cameroon in 2019, but it was moved to Egypt due to concerns that Cameroon’s stadiums were not ready for the games.
Delays in the construction of stadiums and infrastructure projects, as well as security concerns, were cited by the CAF.
Hundreds of people have died as a result of overcrowding at football matches around the world.
Thousands of fans attempted to enter a stadium in Cairo, Egypt, to watch a game in 2015, causing panic as police fired tear gas and birdshot, killing 19 people.
In April 2001, a stampede at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium killed 43 people during a match between the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs.
In Guatemala, 90 people were killed in a crush during a World Cup qualification match between Guatemala and Costa Rica in an overcrowded stadium in October 1996.
Cameroon sealed their place in the tournament’s last eight with a 2-1 victory on the field, and will now face The Gambia in the quarter-finals.
In their first appearance at the Cup of Nations, the Comoros had qualified for the last 16.
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