Cameroon blames stadium deaths on massive influx of fans

Authorities in Cameroon have blamed a tragic stadium crush at the African Cup of Nations on a “massive” surge of ticketless supporters who arrived late for a game featuring the local team and attempted to push their way in to circumvent security checks and COVID-19 screening.

The government has responded by ordering 250 additional police officers for Cameroon’s next match, a quarterfinal against Gambia on Saturday at a separate venue.

Eight people were killed and 38 others were injured in a stampede during Monday’s Cameroon-Comoros last 16 match at the African Cup’s major Olembe Stadium in the capital of Yaounde. This is one of the catastrophic stadium tragedies in the tournament’s history.

Cameroon Sports Minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi said Friday that while the entire findings of a government probe were not yet ready, he did share some new information.

Nearly 60,000 supporters attempted to enter the game at the Olembe, Kombi stated, despite the fact that the attendance was supposed to be restricted at 48,000 according to COVID-19 limitations.

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The organizers of the African Cup have made it mandatory for supporters to produce negative viral testing and proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to attend games.

However, because many fans lacked tickets or did not match the COVID-19 screening rules, they forced their way in, Kombi said. Local television stations published images of supporters scaling security barriers during the crush.

“I will not be able to give you the results of investigations ordered by Cameroon President Paul Biya but the massive and late influx of supporters and spectators at Yaounde’s Olembe stadium caused the crash,” Kombi said.

Authorities have not yet explained why security officers directed fans toward a shut gate, as witnesses allege caused the crash. Or why security was so insufficient and susceptible to being breached.

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