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Johannesburg » At least 60 people died and about 200 were injured early Tuesday in a stampede that followed a fireworks display at a football stadium in Ivory Coast, emergency officials said.
Most of the dead and injured were young children and teenagers.
The stampede occurred in the early morning hours as crowds were leaving the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, the capital, after a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. It was unknown what triggered the stampede, officials said.
Local television station RTI reported that the crowd panicked after the fireworks ended, triggering the massing of people in downtown Abidjan’s Plateau neighborhood.
"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," Mamadou Sanogo said of her 9-year-old boy, according to local French-language news website L’infodrome.
Hospital staff said the death toll was likely to rise because of serious injuries and the lack of blood for transfusions, according to news agencies. Government officials said the cause of the stampede was being investigated.
There were bloodstains and lost shoes at the scene after dawn, Reuters news service reported.
"My two children came here yesterday," Assetou Toure, a cleaner, told Reuters. "I told them not to come but they didn’t listen. They came when I was sleeping. What will I do?" She did not know whether her children had survived.
One woman who survived the stampede told Agence France-Presse that she went to the 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 unclear.
Tuesday’s catastrophe was much worse than an Abidjan soccer stadium stampede in 2009 that killed 19, when the country’s sporting officials sold too many seats to a qualifying match for soccer’s World Cup.
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