60 die, dozens hurt in Ivory Coast New Year stampede

Posted at 01/01/13 7:59 PM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (2nd UPDATE) -- About 60 people were crushed to death in Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan overnight after a New Year's Eve fireworks display, emergency officials and state media said on Tuesday.

"There are around 60 dead, and about 200 injured, this is a provisional estimate," a rescue official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

He said the incident happened near Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium where a crowd had gathered to watch fireworks.

The head of military rescue workers, Lieutenant Colonel Issa Sako, told public television that "60 people" died and 200 were injured based on a preliminary toll. Another rescue official told Agence France Presse (AFP) the toll was "61 dead and 48 injured".

The rescue official said the injured had been taken to hospitals in Abidjan. An AFP journalist saw many injured children.

A Reuters correspondent said there were blood stains and abandoned shoes outside the stadium Tuesday morning, and government officials and rescue and security forces were still there.

"My two children came here yesterday. I told them not to come but they didn't listen. They came when I was sleeping. What will I do?" said Assetou Toure, a cleaner. She said she did not know if her children survived.

The flow of people coming to the entrance of the city's main stadium to watch the fireworks caused a "very large crush", Sako said. "In the crush, people were walked over and suffocated by the crowd."

Images broadcast by RTI television showed bodies stretched lifeless on the ground. Piles of abandoned shoes and clothing could also be seen at the stadium, where soldiers and police were deployed.