Ivory Coast has declared a three-day national mourning after a New Year’s Eve stampede killed at least 61 people in Abidjan.
Many victims were said to be 15 or younger. The government said 60 people with an average age of 18 had died.
According to BBC, hundreds of people leaving a fireworks display at a stadium in the Plateau district were jammed into a tiny street in the early hours of Tuesday: many were crushed; others suffocated.
Several theories have emerged explaining the possible reasons for the tragedy. Some say a group of youths brandishing knives was snatching people’s mobile phones, causing panic among the large crowd. But others blame the inept handling of the situation by the security forces who tried to control the crowd walking through the city centre, triggering the stampede.
A market vendor injured in the incident, Sanata Zoure, told Reuters that people going home after watching the fireworks display were stopped by police near the stadium. “We were walking with our children and we came upon barricades, and people started falling into each other. We were trampled with our children,” she is quoted as saying.
It was reported that desperate parents went to the city morgue, the hospital and to the stadium to try to find missing children.
President Alassane Ouattara described the deaths as a national tragedy and declared three days of national mourning starting Wednesday.
The government organized the fireworks to celebrate Ivory Coast’s peace, after several months of political violence in early 2011 following disputed elections. People were in the mood to celebrate on New Year’s Eve and families brought children and they watched the rockets burst in the nighttime sky. But only an hour into the new year, as the crowds poured out of the stadium after the show, something caused a stampede.
The night before the tragedy, the stadium hosted a concert by US performer Chris Brown. An investigation has been launched to determine the “exact circumstances” of the tragedy.
We commiserate with Ivory Coast at this difficult period an pray that the souls of the departed will Rest In Peace.