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Death toll rises to eight in Cameroon stadium crush; 38 injured

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON (AP) — Eight people have now died after a stampede outside a game at the African Cup of Nations football tournament in Cameroon, while another seven people are in serious condition in the hospital, authorities said yesterday.

The death toll increased after two more fans were pronounced dead outside the Messassi hospital, police said. Injured people had initially been rushed to that hospital by police and civilians trying to help. The hospital quickly became overwhelmed and said it couldn’t handle all the casualties.

A total of 38 people were hurt in the stampede, which happened on Monday night at the Olembe Stadium in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde. The remaining 31 people had light to moderate injuries. The injured are now being treated at four different hospitals, Communication Minister René Sadi said.

The crush came when football fans struggled to get into the stadium to watch Cameroon’s team play Comoros in a highly-anticipated knockout game at Africa’s top soccer tournament. The tragedy may have been connected to fans trying to avoid COVID-19 checks to watch the game. Local organisers have made it compulsory that fans show proof of negative virus tests and be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to attend games at the African Cup. They need to go through sanitary checks as well as security checks at stadiums.

Local TV stations broadcast footage showing people jumping over the security fences at the stadium, while there are reports that police were overwhelmed. The Cameroon government said 57,000 people were at the stadium for the game when the crowd was meant to be restricted to a maximum of 40,000 because of the virus. The Olembe has a capacity of 60,000.

A witness said the stampede at the south entrance of the stadium happened after supporters were directed by security officials toward an entrance gate that was locked. The gate was eventually opened, the witness said, causing a surge and people were trampled.

Children were caught up in the stampede, the witness said.

Cameroon President Paul Biya ordered an investigation into the tragedy, which came a day after at least 17 people died after a fire set off a series of explosions at a nightclub in Yaounde.

People assist victims of a stampede outside a stadium hosting an African Cup of Nations football game in Yaounde, Cameroon. PHOTO: AP
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