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 only the second New Year’s Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation 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 is 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 eight 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 Ivory Coast state media.
This is not Ivory Coast’s first stadium tragedy. In 2009, 22 people died and over 130 were injured in a stampede at a sports game, prompting FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, to impose a fine of tens of thousands of dollars on Ivory Coast’s soccer federation. The stadium, which officially holds 35,000, was overcrowded at the time of the disaster.
Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa producer, growing more than 37 percent of the world’s annual crop of cocoa beans, which are used to make chocolate.