Fan stampede kills at least eight and injures dozens before Cameroon game

·3 min read

At least eight people including two children died and 38 were injured - several seriously - after a stampede outside the Olembé Stadium in Yaoundé just before the last-16 Cup of Nations clash between Cameroon and Comoros.

Images circulating on social media during the early hours of Tuesday morning showed screaming fans being crushed at an entrance gate to the 60,000-seat stadium.

The injured were taken to hospitals around Yaoundé as the Confederation of African Football - Caf - which organises the biennial Cup of Nations competition - launched an inquiry into the incident.

The health ministry said on Tuesday that two women in their 30s and four men in the 30s also died in the crush.

"The safety and security of spectators has to be the fundamental primary concern and obligation," Caf boss Patrice Motsepe told a press conference after visiting the scene of the tragedy on Tuesday.

"I'm extremely disappointed, sad and hurt with what has happened and everything possible will be done to make sure it does not happen again,"

The Olembé Stadium is the showpiece site for the Cup of Nations. The arena was the venue for the opening ceremony as well as match on 9 January between Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

It was due to stage a quarter-final match on Sunday. But competition organisers said that game would be switched to the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé while the inquiry continues.

A semi-final is slated for Olembé on 3 February before it hosts the final on 6 February.

Fears

In the prelude to the tournament, organisers fended off fears about security and the spread of the coronavirus insisting that only fans who had been vaccinated and could also show a negative PCR or antigen test would have access to stadiums.

Motsepe said discovering why breaches to those protocols and also why one gate was closed when it should have been open would be at the heart of the investigation.

"There was an abnormal number of people who came to just be part of the atmosphere," conceded Motsepe.

"But having said that, having so many people close to the stadium in a manner that is not properly governed should not have happened.

"Why was the gate closed?" he added. "And it was closed for an inexplicable reason."

Cameroonian President Paul Biya also ordered a review into the tragedy which has tarnished the image of the country.

Health minister, Manaouda Malachie, pledged government support for the victims during a tour of hospitals.

One man in his 30s who was caught up in the crush told of chaotic scenes at the entrance to the stadium as supporters without tickets tried to force their way in.

"I arrived a quarter of an hour before kick-off. I had my ticket but all of a sudden a group of people without tickets arrived and tried to force their way through and we found ourselves pushed up against the fences.

"I was crushed up against a woman who said she couldn't breathe. Eventually the gate gave in and I was able to get through, but it was complete chaos."

Carry on

Motsepe said organisers had discussed whether to cancel the rest of the tournament in the light of the tragedy.

It will continue though on Tuesday with the last-16 tie between Senegal and Cape Verde in Bafoussam and the game pitting Morocco against Malawi at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé.

Motsepe said a minute's silence would be observed before the start of each match.

"We will not compromise on our insistence that appropriate measures will be taken to make sure this does not happen again," he added.

"When people lose their lives you must be angry and you must be impatient and you must ask questions.

"You must demand explanations and you must demand a guarantee that it must never happen again."

His exhortation will come under intense scrutiny during the inquiries into the tragedy which overshadowed Cameroon's 2-1 victory over Comoros.

Skipper Vincent Aboubakar scored his sixth goal of the tournament in the win and the hosts will face Gambia in the quarter-final in Douala on 29 January.

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