Eight people were killed and dozens others injured in a crush outside a Cameroonian football stadium ahead of an Africa Cup of Nations match, officials said on Tuesday.
Cameroonian President Paul Biya ordered an investigation into the tragedy that occurred on Monday as crowds attempted to enter Olembe stadium in the capital Yaounde to watch the host nation play Comoros.
Although the stadium’s capacity of 60,000 had been limited over the coronavirus pandemic, the cap is raised to 80 percent when Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions play.
“Eight deaths were recorded, two women in their 30s, four men in their 30s, one child, one body taken away by the family,” said a preliminary health ministry report obtained by AFP.
The ministry said victims were “immediately transported” in ambulances, but “heavy road traffic slowed down the transport”.
Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi said that 38 people were injured in the crush, including seven seriously, according to a statement.
The health ministry reported earlier that around 50 people were injured, including two people with multiple injuries and two more with serious head wounds.
A baby was also reportedly trampled by the crowd, the ministry added. The infant was “immediately extracted and taken to Yaounde General Hospital” and is in a “medically stable” condition, it added.
The tragedy happened at gates where final ticket checks are supposed to take place.
Africa Cup of Nations organising committee spokesperson Abel Mbengue told AFP: “There was a crush as can happen when there is a stampede. We are waiting for reliable information on the number of casualties in this tragic incident”.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which runs the continent’s flagship competition, said it was “investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired”.
In a statement online, the organisation said it had sent its secretary general to “visit the supporters in hospital in Yaounde”.
It added it was in “constant communication with Cameroon government and the Local Organizing Committee”.
Cameroon’s health minister Manaouda Malachie tweeted images showing him visiting a hospital treating those hurt in the incident.
“Everything is done to give them free care and the best support,” he tweeted.
The CAF will hold a “crisis meeting” with the organising committee on Tuesday, dedicated exclusively to security issues in the stadiums, a source close to CAF told AFP.