Yaoundé (AFP) – The quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations which is to be played at the Olembe stadium in Yaoundé will be moved to another venue after Monday’s deadly lightning strike, African football champion Patrice Motsepe has revealed and called for an investigation into the tragedy.
“The match which is scheduled for Sunday at the Olembe stadium (…) will take place at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium”, also in Yaoundé, said the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Motsepe, during a press conference. .
“There must be a committee set up to investigate what happened and to find out who was supposed to do what. We want that report by Friday,” the South African added, saying there would be “zero tolerance on circumstances that could lead to injury or death to people.”
Eight people died and 38 were injured as fans tried to enter the Olembe stadium where hosts Cameroon played Comoros, according to figures released by the country’s health ministry.
President Paul Biya has ordered an investigation into the crash, “so that full light is shed on this tragic incident”, Cameroon’s communication minister said.
Although crowds at the 60,000-seat stadium have been limited to 60% of tournament capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cap is raised to 80% when the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon play.
“Eight deaths have been recorded, two women in their thirties, four men in their thirties, one child, one body taken away by the family,” said a preliminary report from the Ministry of Health obtained by AFP.
Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi said 38 people were injured, seven of them seriously.
A baby was reportedly trampled by the crowd, the ministry added. The infant was “immediately extracted and transported to Yaoundé General Hospital” and was in “medically stable” condition, he added.
The tragedy occurred at the gates where final ticket checks are supposed to take place.
“It was when the police opened the gates that people fell and others stepped on them,” said Professor André Omgbwa Eballe, director of the Olembe district hospital who attended the game.
“I saw the bravery of the Cameroonian people. People were resuscitating others, doing mouth to mouth, otherwise there would have been more deaths,” he told AFP TV.
– ‘Complete chaos’ –
A man in his 30s who was caught up in the stampede told AFP it was “total chaos” at the entrance to the stadium as ticketless fans tried to force their way in.
“I arrived a quarter of an hour before kick-off. I had my ticket, but suddenly a group of people without a ticket arrived and tried to force their way through and we found ourselves pushed against the fences, ”says the supporter, whose name is Stéphane.
“I was run over by a woman who said she couldn’t breathe. Eventually the door gave way and I was able to get through, but it was total chaos.
Motsepe said CAF had not considered canceling the rest of the tournament but had considered the idea of postponing the round of 16 which was to be played on Tuesday.
Instead, Senegal’s draw with Cape Verde and Morocco’s game against Malawi will both continue, with a minute’s silence for the victims observed before each.
Cameroon was originally scheduled to host the Nations Cup in 2019 but the event was moved to Egypt as the country’s stadiums were not ready.
CAF cited delays in the construction of stadiums and infrastructure projects, as well as question marks over security.
Overcrowding at football matches around the world has claimed dozens of lives.
In 2015, thousands of fans in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, tried to enter a stadium to watch a match, sparking panic when police fired tear gas and bird shots, killing 19 people.
In April 2001, 43 people died in a stampede at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium during a game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
In chaotic scenes during last year’s European Championship final between England and Italy in London, some 2,000 ticketless fans were granted access to Wembley Stadium, an independent review later found that a tragedy had been narrowly averted.