At least eight people dead and 38 injured in a crush ahead of last-16 game between Cameroon and Comoros; Olembe Stadium in Yaounde has a capacity of 60,000 but was only supposed to be 80 per cent full due to Covid restrictions; 50,000 fans tried to attend the match, officials say
Naseri Paul Biya, governor of the central region of Cameroon, said there could be more casualties as 38 people were reported to be injured.
The crush happened as crowds struggled to get access to the Olembe Stadium in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde to watch the host country play Comoros in a last-16 knockout game.
Videos on social media show fans storming the stadium gates, while pictures appear to show fans laying injured on the ground.
Witnesses at the stadium said children were among those caught up in the crush, while witnesses also said it happened when stadium stewards closed the gates and stopped allowing people in.
Officials at the nearby Messassi hospital were admitting injured people from the crush, who were rushed to the hospital by police and civilians. The officials said the hospital was not capable of treating all of them.
“Some of the injured are in desperate condition,” said Olinga Prudence, a nurse. “We will have to evacuate them to a specialized hospital.”
Officials said around 50,000 people had tried to attend the match. The stadium has a capacity of 60,000 but it was not meant to be more than 80 per cent full for the game due to restrictions on the size of the crowd because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Yaounde Olembe Stadium, which hosted the tournament’s opening ceremony, was built in preparation for the delayed competition, which kicked off earlier this month.
Cameroon is hosting AFCON for the first time in 50 years. It was meant to host the tournament in 2019 but the event was taken away that year and awarded to Egypt because of serious concerns with Cameroon’s preparations, particularly the readiness of its stadiums.
The Yaounde Olembe Stadium was one of the venues that were under scrutiny. It is the main stadium for the month-long tournament and is due to stage three more games, including the final on February 6.
Cameroon won Monday night’s game 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
Confederation of African Football statement
“CAF is aware of the incident that took place at Olembe Stadium during the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations fixture between hosts Cameroon and Comoros tonight, 24 January 2022.
“CAF is currently investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired. We are in constant communication with the Cameroon government and the Local Organizing Committee.
“Tonight, the CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe sent the General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba to visit the supporters in hospital in Yaounde.”
“FIFA sends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives following the tragic incident that took place at Olembe Stadium during the Africa Cup of Nations fixture between Cameroon and Comoros.
“The thoughts and prayers of the global football community are with the victims, the ones who have been injured in this incident, and all the staff of both CAF and the Cameroonian Football Association (FECAFOOT) at this difficult moment.”