A stampede at a church charity event in southern Nigeria on Saturday left 31 people dead and seven injured, a shocking development at a programme that organisers said aimed to “offer hope” to those in need.
The stampede at the programme organised by the Kings Assembly pentecostal church in Rivers state involved many people who were seeking assistance, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokesperson.
Many of the victims came to an annual “Shop for Free” charity programme organised by the church. Such events are common in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, where more than 80 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics.
Saturday’s charity programme was supposed to begin at 9am but dozens arrived as early as 5am to secure their place in line, Iringe-Koko said. Somehow they broke open the locked gate, she said, adding that the seven injured were “responding to treatment”.
Videos from the scene showed the clothes, shoes and other items meant for the beneficiaries. Dozens of residents later thronged the scene, mourning the dead and offering any assistance they could to emergency workers. Doctors and emergency workers treated the injured as they lay in the open field.
One witness who only identified himself as Daniel said “there were so many children” among the dead. Five of the dead children were from one mother, he told the AP, adding that a pregnant woman also lost her life.
Some church members were attacked and injured by relatives of the victims after the stampede, according to witness Christopher Eze. The church declined to comment on the situation.
The Shop for Free event was suspended while authorities investigated how the stampede occurred.
Nigeria has seen similar stampedes in the past. Twenty-four people died at an overcrowded church gathering in the south-eastern state of Anambra in 2013, while at least 16 people were killed in 2014 when a crowd got out of control during a screening for government jobs in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )