At least eight people were killed in a crush outside the stadium where Cameroon and Comoros were playing in the Africa Cup of Nations.
The governor of Cameroon’s central region, Naseri Paul Biya, indicated there may be more deaths, despite the fact that 38 people were reported injured.
The crush occurred when fans attempted to gain entry to the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, to witness the host team face Comoros in a last-16 knockout encounter. Social media videos show fans storming the stadium gates, while photos appear to show fans injured on the ground.
Witnesses recounted chaotic scenes outside the stadium as thousands of people tried to get inside. Two children, ages six and fourteen, were killed, and seven individuals were gravely injured.
President Paul Biya of Cameroon has requested an investigation into the “tragic incident” The African Football Confederation (CAF) has also initiated its own inquiry. According to officials, over 50,000 people attempted to attend the game.
The stadium has a capacity of 60,000, but due to Covid limits, it was not expected to be more than 80% filled for the game.
Fans can be seen clambering over fences, pushing through checks, and stomping on incapacitated supporters in images shared on social media. Others depict people attempting to revive their fellow fans.
As supporters clamoured to enter the stadium through a single open gate, Danish journalist Buster Emil Kirchner observed “a lot of chaos”
He told the BBC, “It was hectic – people running, people climbing fences, people breaking through the barricades,”
Another journalist, Leocadia Bongben, saw a ruckus emanating from one of the stadium’s fan zones.
She told the BBC’s Newsday show, “People started shouting,” “A minute later, an ambulance arrived at the stadium, but when we arrived, the police refused to let us get close to the stampede.”
The “thoughts and prayers of the global football community” were with those impacted, according to Fifa, the international governing body of football.
CAF President Patrice Motsepe said no future matches would be held in the stadium until supporters could be assured of their safety.
Mr Motsepe told a news conference, “Clearly there were failures – there were things that should have been foreseen,”
Following a dismal turnout for the first round of the continent’s top football event, Cameroonian officials have opened stadium gates, organized mass transportation, and distributed free tickets to entice supporters.
The Paul Biya stadium, Cameroon’s largest, opened last year.
Cameroon is a football-crazed country that hasn’t hosted an Africa Nations Cup in 50 years, so fans rushed to the stadium to see the tournament’s biggest game thus far. The issue is that just one gate, the south gate, was open 30 minutes before kick-off.
A bottleneck formed, according to one eyewitness, with spectators waving their tickets in the air in an attempt to get in, annoyed with the slow speed of admittance. Fans who had not purchased tickets were also present, hoping for a lucky break.
Fans must pass a negative Covid test to enter the stadium, which will just add to the delay – but this is not done by the gates – and different people I talked with do not believe it had a significant role in the rush.