At least 22 supporters have died and 132 were injured after a wall collapsed following a stampede prior to Ivory Coast’s World Cup qualifier against Malawi.
Ticketless fans had gathered outside the gates of the 35,000-capacity Houphouet-Boigny arena in the West African country’s main city, Abidjan. There was a crush inside the stadium and a wall collapsed.
A rush by spectators caused the collapse of a wall, officials said. Police then fired tear gas to clear the crowd, causing a stampede which also left many people injured.
“We have 22 dead and many seriously injured,” a military source at the stadium told Reuters.
The incident occurred before kick-off, however the game was allowed to proceed.
“Spectators who did not buy tickets were jostling before the match,” Sports Minister Dagobert Banzio said on state television. “They smashed one of the main gates of the stadium. They were trampled.”
Interior Minister Desire Tagro told state television: “Lots of fans showed up,” reported AP news agency.
“They started pushing to get in because the match was about to start and each and every one of them wanted to get in.”
The country’s interior and sports ministers held emergency talks with leaders of the Ivory Coast Football Federation (FIF), FIF president Albert Kakou Anzouan told AFP.
The tragedy followed similar incidents which have marred international matches in Africa in the last decade, including two separate ones in Zambia and the death of 13 people in Zimbabwe nine years ago.
FIFA instigated a programme of stadium inspections across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches.