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No time-frame for tragedy probe

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The government has said it has not yet set a time-frame for investigations into factors that led to the death of eight people at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe on Thursday.

The victims, mostly children, died in a stampede that occurred at the stadium, as they scrambled to enter to watch a football match between Silver Strikers and Nyasa Big Bullets.

Minister of Information, Nicholas Dausi, on Friday said investigations started soon after the tragedy.

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“I cannot give you the time-frame. This is an investigation. We have already started [investigating] and we will be able to understand what happened. From that, we will be able to draw lessons from the mistakes that were made,” Dausi said.

Meanwhile, Stadium Manager Eric Ning’ang’a, who was not in the organising committee of the celebrations, said the tragedy could have been avoided if the gates were opened early.

“I believe if we had opened the gates earlier [than we did], that [incident] would not have happened. People were just looking at football, but it was more than that. I was not in the organising committee but I told them what was supposed to be done,” Ning’ang’a said.

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He added: “In future, we simply have to open the gates as early as possible. In the past, when there were similar events at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, people could go there as early as 3 am. Some even slept at the stadium. Why not us? We have able police officers but, at times, when the crowd is too big, they can easily be overpowered.”

Initially, 62 people were confirmed to have been injured but, as of Friday, Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) officials said the number of people injured in their records is 68.

KCH spokesperson, Chiyanjano Kazombo, said the victims were in different wards depending on the degree of injuries.

According to her, as of yesterday 23 people were still admitted to different wards at the hospital including pediatric, High Dependency Unit and Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

In another development, some people placed flowers at the main entrance of the stadium, where the tragedy occurred, yesterday and observed a minute of silence.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has said it is saddened by the events in Lilongwe.

In a statement from Unicef Representative Johannes Wedenig, released on Friday, the UN agency says: “The images of lifeless and injured children at a time when they were supposed to be celebrating is heart breaking and especially so for parents and families. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families who have lost their beloved ones and all victims.

“Unicef will continue to work for the children of Malawi to ensure they are provided with a safe, violent free and nurturing environment so they are able to grow and realise their full potential,” the statement reads.

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