At least eight people dead and 38 injured in a crush ahead of last-16 game between Cameroon and Comoros at Olembe Stadium; venue 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
Thursday 27 January 2022 13:37, UK
Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final at Olembe Stadium has been moved to Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium as a result of the deadly crush at the ground that killed eight people on Monday.
Another 38 people were reported to be injured after spectators were involved in a crush outside Olembe Stadium, which was hosting the last-16 game between hosts Cameroon and Comoros.
Naseri Paul Biya, governor of the central region of Cameroon, said the number of casualties could still increase.
The crush happened as crowds struggled to get access to the ground in the Cameroon capital of Yaounde.
Olembe Stadium was meant to host the last-eight tie between the winners of Ivory Coast vs Egypt and Morocco vs Malawi but, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe called for an immediate investigation.
He said: "We have to make sure the safety of every single spectator is our primary concern. There is zero tolerance on circumstances which could result in people being injured at the stadium or losing their lives.
"We have to take emergency and urgent steps now, so I have called a meeting tomorrow and I've also sought the guidance and advice of my vice-presidents. I need a report on what happened, the circumstances that led to people being injured and emergency measures to make sure that doesn't happen again. We have to take collective responsibility.
"There must be a committee set up to immediately investigate what happened and find out who did not perform their responsibilities. We want that report by Friday.
"The game that is scheduled for Olembe Stadium on Sunday is not going to take place. It's going to take place at Ahmadou Ahidjo."
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.
Motesepe said: "Some of the people came just to be part of the atmosphere. Including those who didn't have tickets, so I think we do accept that thousands of people more than what was expected did arrive. Having said that, we will have very tough and very hard discussions behind closed doors and I'm confident because of the discussions I had this morning.
"What happened yesterday in terms of the proximity of people being allowed to the stadium in a manner that is not properly coordinated and governed will never happen again. I went to see where the people lost their lives and you see it's a gate. That gate was supposed to be open. Because if it was open, they would have walked through and it was closed for inexplicable reasons."
Motsepe did, however, say he remains happy with the safety measures that were in place ahead of the game.
"I am involved in so many ventures worldwide," he added. "My duty is always to not just take responsible steps but also I am more inclined to be as conservative as possible to put measures in place that minimises the loss of life.
"So I'm happy and pleased with the measures that are in place, I'm extremely disappointed and sad and hurt with what has happened yesterday. Everything possible is going to be done to make sure that doesn't happen again."
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 specialised 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 was 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.
"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 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."