Eight people, seven of them children, have died in a stampede at the Bingu football stadium in Malawi on Thursday. According to The Daily Times, the children ranged from the ages of 5 and 12. Dozens more were injured when the crowd of thousands rushed into the stadium in an effort to get seats for the friendly between local rivals Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers. The match went ahead as planned, although Malawi President Peter Mutharika, who was scheduled to be a spectator at the game, declined to stay. Mutharika offered his condolences and assured the families of the victims that the government would do what it could to provide support.
The stampede was reportedly caused by a delay in the opening of the stadium. The doors to the 40,000 capacity venue were supposed to open at 6:30 local time, but they didn’t let people in until three hours after the designated time. Even more people than usual were attending the match because of it being the 53rd anniversary of Malawi’s declaration of independence from British colonial rule, meaning that many people were off from work and that admission would be free for the holiday. Because of those factors combined with the delays, thousands had already piled up at the entrance, leading to the crushing of several spectators when the doors were opened. Police initially had to use tear gas to break the crowd up.
Those who were injured were taken to local hospitals. The Kamuzu Central Hospital was particularly swamped by the incident, and The Nation reported that the situation was so dire that some of the young ones who arrived had lie on the floor because all the beds became occupied. The photograph on the front page of the website showed a medic having to run across the hospital floor with a small child in his arms.