ABIDJAN (Reuters) - At least 61 people were crushed to death in a stampede after a New Year's Eve fireworks display at a stadium in Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan early on Tuesday, officials said.
Witnesses said police had tried to control crowds around the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium following the celebrations, triggering a panic in which scores were trampled.
"The estimate we can give right now is 49 people hospitalized ... and 61 people dead," said the chief of staff of Abidjan's fire department Issa Sacko.
Crying women searched for missing family members outside the stadium on Tuesday morning. The area was covered in patches of dried blood and abandoned shoes.
"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.
Sanata Zoure, a market vendor injured in the incident, said New Year's revelers going home after watching the fireworks had been stopped by police near the stadium.
"We were walking with our children and we came upon barricades, and people started falling into each other. We were trampled with our children," she said.
Another witness said police arrived to control the crowd after a mob began chasing a pickpocket.
President Alassane Ouattara called the deaths a national tragedy and said an investigation was under way to find out what happened. Continued...