Three days of mourning have been declared for 61 people crushed to death on New Year's Eve.
Three days of mourning beginning yesterday, January 2, 2013, have been declared in Côte d'Ivoire following New Year's Eve stampede that left 61 people dead in the economic capital, Abidjan, the BBC said.
President Alassane Ouattara, who visited wounded victims in hospital, described the deaths as a national tragedy. While on a visit to the site of the incident, the President announced a period of national mourning, saying he was shocked at what had happened. In a statement after visiting victims at the Cocody University Teaching Hospital in Abidjan, Ouattara ordered that an investigation be launched immediately to determine the cause of the tragedy.
He instructed government to take care of victims' bills. Meanwhile, the annual presentation of New Year messages of goodwill to the President which had been scheduled to take place today, January 3, 2013 and tomorrow at the Presidential Palace has also been postponed to a later date. Reports said a group of youths brandishing knives was snatching mobile phones from people and causing panic in the large crowd when the tragedy struck. Other accounts say security forces acted ineptly as they tried to control thousands of people walking through the city centre, triggering the stampede which also left many victims critically injured.
Hundreds of people leaving a fireworks event at the 65,000-capacity Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in the Plateau district were jammed into a tiny street in the early hours of Tuesday, January 1, 2013 when many were crushed to death while others suffocated. Many victims were said to be 15 or younger. The fireworks event had been organised to celebrate the end of the conflict triggered by 2010 presidential election dispute that eventually saw Alassane Ouattara come to power after foreign military intervention.
In similar incident, 10 people - including four children - died on New Year's Eve in a stampede during a religious gathering at a sports stadium in Luanda, the Angolan capital. The Angolan news agency, Angop, cited officials as saying 120 people were also injured. The incident happened when tens of thousands of people gathered at the stadium for an event organised by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Faustino Sebastiao, spokesman for the National Fire Department, said those who died were crushed or asphyxiated. This week's incidents bring to mind the 2009 stampede at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in which 19 football fans died before a World Cup qualifying match against Malawi.