Eight people died in the crush during an African Cup of Nations match in Cameroon
Eight people have now died after a stampede outside an Africa Cup of Nations football tournament match in Cameroon, while seven others are in serious condition in hospital, authorities said on Tuesday.
The death toll rose after two more fans were pronounced dead outside Messassi Hospital, police said. The injured people were first rushed to this hospital by police and civilians trying to help. The hospital was soon overwhelmed and said it could not handle all the casualties.
A total of 38 people were injured in the stampede that took place Monday night at the Olembe stadium in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital. The other 31 people had minor to moderate injuries. The injured are now being treated in four different hospitals, Communication Minister René Sadi said.
Love at first sight came as football fans struggled to enter the stadium to watch the Cameroon team take on Comoros in a highly anticipated knockout tie at Africa’s biggest football tournament. The tragedy may have been linked to fans trying to avoid Covid-19 checks to watch the game.
Local organizers have made it mandatory for fans to show proof of negative virus tests and be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to attend Africa Cup matches. They must pass health checks as well as security checks in the stadiums.
Local TV stations broadcast footage showing people jumping over stadium security barriers, while reports said police were overwhelmed. The Cameroonian government said 57,000 people were at the stadium for the match as crowds were expected to be limited to a maximum of 40,000 due to the virus. Olembe has a capacity of 60,000 places.
A witness said the stampede at the southern entrance to the stadium happened after fans were directed by security guards to an entrance gate which was locked. The door was eventually opened, the witness said, causing a wave and people being trampled on. Children were caught up in the stampede, the witness said.
“When the security guards finally started to open the doors, with all the anxiety and after being locked in…people pushed the security guards back and forced their way inside,” he said. declared the witness, Marie Asongafack. “That’s where it all started… By the time I got to the front, there were people on the ground getting trampled.”
Medical help was not immediately available, “so people were just trying their basic first aid on the victims,” Asongafack said. “I saw a child under 10 years old, dead. The guys were trying to revive him.”
Cameroonian President Paul Biya has ordered an investigation into the tragedy, which came a day after at least 17 people died after a fire triggered a series of explosions at a nightclub in Yaoundé.
The Central African nation is hosting the Africa Cup for the first time in 50 years and its preparations have been under scrutiny for years. Cameroon was scheduled to host the tournament in 2019, but that year’s event was withdrawn and awarded to Egypt due to Cameroon’s serious preparation issues, particularly in and around the stadiums.
The Olembe stadium, the tournament’s main stadium and venue for the February 6 final, was one of the arenas that concerned the organizers. Matches are also played in four other cities.
The Cameroonian Minister of Public Health, Manaouda Malachie, visited the various hospitals where the injured were being treated. He said 31 of the 38 people injured were responding well to treatment, but the rest were in serious condition.
On Tuesday morning, people gathered at hospitals looking for missing family members.
“I am helpless. The police were of no help and I couldn’t find my two brothers,” said Festus Ndi, a 24-year-old student at the University of Yaoundé.
Premier League club Everton tweeted: “The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Everton are with the families of the supporters who lost their lives and anyone affected by the tragic events of today’s #AFCON2021 match. today between Cameroon and the Comoros in Yaoundé. TEAR.”
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Everton go out to the families of the fans who lost their lives and to anyone affected by today’s tragic events. #AFCON2021 match between Cameroon and Comoros in Yaoundé. RIP 💙💙💙💙💙💙
—Everton (@Everton) January 24, 2022
Cameroon won the game 2-1 to set up a quarter-final with Gambia.
Jimmy Abdou was sent off after seven minutes as Comoros, without a recognized goalkeeper due to injury and coronavirus, saw their fairy tale run come to an end.
Comoros, ranked 132nd in the world, were without the injured Salim Ben Boina for the round of 16 match in Yaoundé while fellow goalkeepers Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini had both tested positive for Covid-19.
Ajaccio’s 5ft 8in left-back Chaker Alhadhur has taken over for a Comorian side which were without several outfield players and coach Amir Abdou due to the coronavirus.
Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar were in on the action as Cameroon secured a quarter-final date with The Gambia, but it was not without concern as Youssouf M’Changama slotted home a free-kick from 30 meters with nine minutes remaining.
Alhadhur had barely touched the ball when Abdou received his marching order for stepping on the back of Moumi Ngamaleu’s ankle.
The former Plymouth and Millwall midfielder has been banned after Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa was asked to go to the VAR monitor.
Comoros, who had booked a place in the round of 16 by beating four-time African champions Ghana, refused to give up and Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana produced a superb double save from Ahmed Mogni and Mohamed Youssouf.
Toko Ekambi – with Cameroon’s only shot on target in the first half – opened the scoring after 29 minutes by finding the bottom corner of Alhadhur’s net.
Alhadhur blocked a header from Aboubakar early in the second half with his legs, before making a smart double save to thwart the former Porto striker and Ngamaleu.
Aboubakar, the tournament’s top scorer, scored his sixth goal in four games after 70 minutes but M’Changama gave the brave Comoros late hope with the softest of strikes.
The Gambia had surprised Guinea earlier with a 1-0 victory in Bafoussam.
Musa Barrow showed excellent control in the penalty area before sweeping away the Gambia winner in the 71st minute.
Guinea, who were without suspended Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, hit the woodwork twice in the dying seconds.
The Gambia had substitute Yusupha Njie sent off four minutes from time for two bookable fouls before Guinea’s Ibrahima Conte also saw red in the dying seconds.