Saturday, February 24, 2018

Stampede after fireworks kills 61 in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — A crowd stampeded after leaving a New Year's fireworks show early Tuesday in Ivory Coast's main city, killing 61 people — many of them children and teenagers — and injuring more than 200, rescue workers said.

Thousands had gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan's Plateau district to see the fireworks. It was the second New Year's Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation in early 2011 after a bloody upheaval over presidential elections put the nation on the brink of civil war and turned this city into a battle zone.

With 2013 showing greater promise, people were in the mood to celebrate on New Year's Eve. 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 onto the Boulevard de la Republic after the show, something caused a stampede, said Col. Issa Sako of the fire department rescue team.

How so many deaths occurred on the broad boulevard and how the tragedy started are likely to be the subject of an investigation.

Many of the younger ones in the crowd went down, trampled underfoot. Most of those killed were between 8 and 15 years old.

"The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200," Sako told state TV.

State TV showed a woman sobbing in the back of an ambulance; another was bent over on the side of the street, apparently in pain; and another, barely conscious and wearing only a bra on her upper body, was hoisted by rescuers. There were also scenes of small children being treated in a hospital. One boy grimaced in pain and a girl lay under a blanket with one hand bandaged. The death toll could rise, officials said.

President Alassane Ouattara and his wife, Dominique, visited some of the injured in the hospital. Mrs. Ouattara leaned over one child who was on a bed in a crowded hospital ward and tried to console the youngster. The president pledged that the government would pay for their treatment, his office said.

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