Africa Cup of Nations: At least 8 killed in deadly crush outside Cameroon stadium

·3-min read
Africa Cup of Nations: At least 8 killed in deadly crush outside Cameroon stadium

Eight people have died and dozens more injured in a crush outside Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, as the Africa Cup of Nations hosts faced Comoros last night.

The Cameroonian government this morning confirmed the death toll, which is said to include a 14-year-old boy, and said 38 people were injured, with seven in a serious condition.

The crush happened as crowds tried to gain access to the stadium’s south entrance for the round-of-16 knockout tie. Videos circulating on social media showed crowds of screaming supporters being crushed at the entry gates to the ground.

Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, has ordered an investigation into the tragedy and sent his “deepest condolences” to the victims’ families.

Victims were rushed to the nearby Messassi hospital, but staff reported that the facility was not capable of treating them all. “Some of the injured are in desperate condition,” nurse Olinga Prudence was quoted as saying by Associated Press. “We will have to evacuate them to a specialised hospital.”

Witnesses said the crush occurred when stewards closed the gates to stop people entering the ground, although it is not currently clear if the incident happened before or during the game. Tournament officials said around 50,000 people had tried to attend the match.

Olembe Stadium holds 60,000 spectators but, due to Covid regulations, its capacity was capped at 80 per cent — around 48,000 — for Cameroon’s matches.

According to Reuters, Cameroonian authorities opened stadium gates, organised mass transport and gave out free tickets to lure supporters to the game following a low turnout in the first round of matches at the new stadiums, built for the month-long tournament.

Danish journalist Buster Emil Kirchner described seeing saw “a lot of chaos” around the gates to the ground, as fans attempted to gain access.

“It was hectic, people running, people climbing fences, people breaking through the barricades,” Kirchner told the BBC.

The crush has realised fears about Cameroon’s capacity to stage the continent’s biggest sports tournament and raises serious questions about the Olembe Stadium’s ability to host matches over the remainder of the AFCON.

Cameroon is hosting the tournament for the first time in half a century, having initially been lined up as hosts in 2019. The tournament was taken away from Cameroon then and awarded to Egypt because of serious concerns with the country’s preparations, particularly the readiness of the stadiums. The Olembe Stadium was one of the grounds under scrutiny.

The ground is the main venue for the tournament and is due to host three more matches, including the final and Sunday’s quarter-final between the winners of Ivory Coast’s tie with Egypt and Morocco’s meeting with Malawi.

News of the crush did not appear to filter through to those inside the stadium during the game, which Cameroon won 2-1 to progress to a quarter- final against Gambia, which they will play in the country’s largest city, Douala.

Tournament organisers, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), said in a statement that they were investigating the crush.

“CAF are currently investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired,” they said in a statement.

“We are in constant communication with [the] government of Cameroon and the local organising committee.”

CAF general secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba has visited injured fans in the hospital, the statement added.

World governing body FIFA said in a statement: “FIFA send their deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives following the tragic incident that took place at Olembe Stadium during the Africa Cup of Nations fixture between Cameroon and Comoros.

“The thoughts and prayers of the global football community are with the victims, the ones who have been injured and all the staff of both CAF and the Cameroonian Football Association at this difficult moment.”

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