Biggest stadiums of both countries welcomed citizens for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but in both cases these events cost lives of some participants, mostly children. At this point at least 74 people are confirmed dead, with over 320 injured.
A similar scenario was planned both in Luanda (capital of Angola) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast capital), where central stadiums were selected to host New Year’s Eve fireworks displays.
National sports venue Stade Felix Houphouet Boigny has already been site of several tragedies, with 1 person dying during local derby game in 2001, further 22 casualties reported at World Cup qualifier in 2009 and 2 more people killed in 2010, while at a reggae concert. But despite warnings and fines from FIFA the standard hasn’t been improved due to insufficient funding for the venue.
Thus, yet again president Boigny’s stadium was selected as location for the New Year’s Eve firework display. With Ivory Coast recovering from a bloody upheaval, tens of thousands were in attendance, vastly exceeding stadium size.
As people, with many children and families in attendance, started leaving, a surge appeared at one of the gates. No reason has yet been established for the sudden move, but people started running, stampeding one another. Children, as the smallest crowd members, were most vulnerable to the panic and official information confirms that most of 61 victims were aged 9-15. Death toll may unfortunately rise further with over 200 people injured and some missing.
Despite the city having a modern national stadium built in 2010, largest vigil was held by local church at previous national venue, Cidadela Desportiva. The outdated venue has been subject to capacity restrictions for safety reasons already, but during the events on Monday night crowds were expected to be around 70,000, despite official capacity varying from 50 to 60,000.
Actual turnout proved even higher than expected, leading to a crush at one of the gates. 13 people have been reported to die from asphyxia – they had no room to breathe, causing lack of oxygen and passing out. With no immediate medical help, they had no chance to survive. At least 4 children are among victims and some 120 people are reported to be injured.