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Tragedy! 8 die in stadium stampede, more than 60 injured

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EIGHT people were yesterday confirmed dead while at least 60 others were rushed to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) following a stampede which occurred at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.

Most of the victims were boys and girls from surrounding areas of Mtandire, Mtsiliza and Piyasani who went to watch a football match as part of Malawi’s 53rd independence anniversary.

When The Daily Times crew visited the hospital, six of the injured were in High Dependency Unit (HDU) and five were in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital.

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After the national service of worship which took place in the morning at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC), President Peter Mutharika visited those injured in different wards at the hospital. One of the victims, Lenia Cassim, who was in the trauma section of the hospital told Mutharika that the stampede might have occurred due to delays in opening the gates.

“We went to the stadium to watch the game. But they were late in opening the gates. When they opened, people started rushing and, in the process, some fell down. At that time, the police threw teargas canisters [at people], adding to the commotion,” Cassim said.

After visiting those injured, Mutharika also went to the mortuary, where he condoled some of the bereaved families.

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Speaking to journalists at the hospital, Mutharika said it was sad that people died as they were trying to celebrate the country’s independence.

“It is very unfortunate. In future we just have to try to learn how to control the crowds. It is very difficult to control where there are so many people. I wish all the families [affected] well. We will help. We are already helping the families, those that are bereaved, and others that are injured, will get some kind of assistance. It is very sad,” Mutharika said.

Although he was initially expected to be at the stadium to watch the game between Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strkers, Mutharika did not go there. Human rights activist Billy Mayaya said, looking at what happened, the government was supposed to cancel all activities.

“I think the celebrations should have been stopped and instead declare days of national mourning. It’s sad that this has happened. But the whole blame should be on the police and stadium managers. How could they use teargas in such a situation?” Mayaya said.

But Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, said cancelling the match after the disaster could have created further problems at the stadium. “We cannot just stand up and say it’s cancelled. That will also create another challenge to us.

The thing is, it’s out of a good intention to have that match today as part of our celebrations. Yes, this has happened, but we can only join forces in consoling those mourning and by praying for the souls of those who have died,” Mussa said.

 

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