At least 15 people were killed and dozens more injured when police fired tear gas amid violent clashes at a football match in Kinshasa on Sunday, provoking a stampede and causing a stadium wall to collapse, officials said.
Fans grew angry after their local team was defeated 1-0 by a team from the eastern town of Lubumbashi in a heated final, Emmanuel Akweti, local minister for the capital's inner city, told Reuters.
"Four policemen were harassed by supporters. When they fired tear gas, the stampede began, causing the deaths," he said.
Akweti said 15 people died of suffocation and 24 were injured. A police source who declined to be named put the death toll higher, at 18.
A Reuters witness counted 14 bodies lying on benches outside the main hospital in Kinshasa, the capital.
Images on a local television station showed plumes of smoke rising from the stadium's bleachers. Supporters, blinded by the gas, ran in different directions, sometimes falling over, the footage showed.
UN-created Radio Okapi said that supporters “began hurling projectiles onto the pitch, forcing the referee to stop the match repeatedly”.
Police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd, there was a stampede in the stands "and in this confusion a stadium wall collapsed," Radio Okapi reported.
An enquiry was launched into the disaster "to identify those responsible," said Kimbuta.
The match was an important play-off between popular teams ASV Club, of Kinshasa, and Tout Puissant Mazembe.
Multiple champions TP Mazembe are based in Lubumbashi in the south-east of the country and are linked to businessman Moise Katumbi, governor of the rich mining province of Katanga, of which Lubumbashi is the capital.
Before the match dozens of police officers were deployed around the Tata Raphael stadium, following trouble at previous matches between the two sides.
Stampedes are a frequent occurrence at crowded events in Congo. Last month at least 21 people were killed when a power cut caused a stampede at a crowded music festival.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-12