Eight people have been killed and about 50 injured in a collision outside a Cameroonian football stadium Monday ahead of an Africa Cup of Nations game.
Crowds tried to enter through a southern entrance to the Olembe stadium in the capital Yaounde to watch the host nation play against the Comoros.
While the stadium’s capacity of 60,000 is limited amid coronavirus fears, the 60 percent cap will be raised to 80 percent when Cameroon’s indomitable lions play.
“Eight deaths were recorded, two women in their thirties, four men in their thirties, one child, one body taken from the family,” said a preliminary report from the health ministry obtained by AFP.
The ministry said the victims were “immediately transported” in ambulances, but “heavy road traffic delayed transport”.
About 50 people were injured in the collision, including two people with multiple injuries and two with serious head injuries, the ministry said.
A baby was also reportedly trampled by the mob, the ministry added, though the baby was “immediately removed and taken to Yaounde General Hospital” and is in a “medically stable” condition.
Tournament organizers had previously confirmed to AFP that victims had been registered without providing further details.
Abel Mbengue, spokesman for the Africa Cup of Nations organizing committee, told AFP: “There was a glimpse as it can happen when there is a stampede. We are waiting for reliable information on the number of victims in this tragic incident”.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which runs the continent’s flagship league, said it was “investigating the situation and trying to get more details about what happened”.
In an online statement, the organization said it had sent its secretary general to “visit supporters at the hospital in Yaounde”.
It added that it was in “constant communication with the government of Cameroon and the local organizing committee”.
Cameroon’s Health Minister Manaouda Malachie tweeted images of him visiting a hospital where those injured in the incident are being treated.
“Everything is being done to give them free care and the best support,” he tweeted.
The CAF will hold a “crisis meeting” with the organizing committee at 9.30am (0830 GMT) on Tuesday morning, devoted exclusively to security issues in the stadiums, a source close to CAF told AFP.
Cameroon was supposed to host the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019. However, the event was moved to Egypt in January of that year due to concerns that Cameroon’s stadiums were not prepared for the games.
The CAF has stripped the country of the tournament, citing delays in stadium construction and infrastructure projects, as well as question marks over safety.
Overcrowding at football matches around the world has resulted in dozens of deaths.
Thousands of fans in the Egyptian capital Cairo tried to enter a stadium to watch a match in 2015, sparking panic as police fired tear gas and birdshot, killing 19.
In April 2001, 43 people died in a stampede at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium during a game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
And in Guatemala, in October 1996, 90 people died in an instant during a World Cup qualifier between the host country and Costa Rica in a crowded stadium.
On the pitch, Cameroon sealed their place in the last eight of the tournament with a 2-1 win and now face the Gambia in the quarter-finals.
The Comoros side had qualified for the last 16 in their first-ever appearance at the Cup of Nations.