30 Mar 2009

Ivory Coast stadium stampede kills 22

3:12 pm on 30 March 2009

At least 22 people have died in a crush at a football stadium during a World Cup qualifier in Ivory Coast.

More than 130 people were injured in the stampede at the Houphouet-Boigny arena in the West African country's city of Abidjan.

About 36,000 spectators were in the stadium, where hosts Ivory Coast beat Malawi 5-0.

The arena was packed for the return of striker Didier Drogba, who scored twice. A BBC correspondent says the authorities tried in vain to control the panicking crowd. One report said police had fired tear gas to control the stampeding fans.

The ministry of sport and the Ivorian Football Federation have confirmed the number of deaths and say the incident occurred when thousands of fans tried to squeeze into the city's main stadium.

A wall collapsed, reportedly under the weight of the supporters, causing those already trying to squeeze into the stadium to panic.

Interior Minister Desire Tagro told state television: "Lots of fans showed up. They started pushing to get in because the match was about to start and each and every one of them wanted to get in."

The incident occurred before the game began but the fixture was allowed to go ahead, according to reports.

The stadium was reportedly sold out in advance of the game after cut-price tickets went on sale.

The arena has just been refurbished but the BBC reports at this stage it seems the sheer number of people who wanted to get into the match proved too much.

Last September, 11 people were killed in a stadium riot in Democratic Republic of Congo and in June eight people died in a crush in Liberia.

South Africa is spending several billion rand on building new venues and infrastructure for the soccer World Cup which it is due to host in 2010.