ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — A crush of people at a stadium in Madagascar left at least 12 dead and 85 injured as sports fans attended the opening ceremony of the Indian Ocean Island Games, authorities said Saturday.
The stampede at the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo, the capital of the East African island nation, happened Friday as people gathered at an entrance for the official opening of the regional multi-sports event.
Government spokesperson Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy said Saturday that 33 of the injured remained in the HRJA Hospital in Antananarivo. Prime Minister Christian Ntsay said Friday that 11 people were in critical condition following the crush, which happened at around 4.30 p.m. local time. Ntsay visited the injured at the hospital.
His office also issued a statement Saturday offering condolences and promising that the government would transfer the victims’ bodies to their families and pay for the medical treatment of the injured.
“The Prime Minister and all members of the government reiterate their condolences to the families of the victims of the unfortunate event in Mahamasina,” Ntsay’s office said.
Rakotondrazafy did not give any update on those who were critically injured in her statement posted on Facebook.
The opening ceremony still went ahead. President Andry Rajoelina was there and asked the crowd at Mahamasina Stadium to observe a moment of silence.
The stadium, which is built to hold around 41,000 people, has been the site of deadly crushes before. One person died and at least 37 were injured in a stampede ahead of a qualifying game for the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament between Madagascar and Senegal in 2018. In 2019, at least 15 people died in a stampede at a concert at the stadium.
The Indian Ocean Island Games is a multi-sports event featuring nations from the region. Athletes from Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion and Seychelles also compete at the games, which were first held in 1979.
Madagascar replaced original host the Maldives for this year’s edition, which is scheduled to run from Aug. 25 to Sept. 3.