The Confederation of African Football has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a deadly stampede at the Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on Monday evening ahead of Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cameroon’s Round of 16 clash with Comoros.
Initial reports of six deaths, which circulated in the immediate aftermath of the fixture, have now been updated to eight fatalities in a government statement, while the names of some of the victims have begun to emerge.
“The first summary of the stampede is that there are eight deaths and 38 injured, of whom 31 have light injuries and seven serious,” read a statement from the Ministry of Communication, as seen by GOAL.
“The deceased were taken to the Emergency Centre in Yaounde for appropriate formalities, while the injured were sent to four different health centres in the city of Yaounde.
“They were immediately alerted following instructions from the President of the Republic Paul Biya.”
Local authorities clarified to GOAL in the immediate aftermath of the incident how supporters attempted to enter the arena when policemen attempted to move a barrier at the South Entrance of the stadium.
Fans closer to the gate were trampled beneath those who attempted to enter the arena, with supporters still being transported to hospital from the stadium medical centre at 23:30 local time — three and a half hours after kick-off — while other victims had been treated in the players' treatment room.
Some of the things I witnessed at the Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde this evening.— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) January 25, 2022
One young teenager, hooked to an ECG machine, stretched to a medical facility over three hours after the match.
Red Cross medics worked until almost midnight trying to stabilise victims, save lives. pic.twitter.com/pEk8Xz6CbI
“In light of this drama, the gravity of which creates emotion and consternation, the Chief of State addresses his saddest condolences to the families who have been hardly affected, while also wishing a quick recovery to the injured, to whom he passes the profound compassion of the whole nation.”
President Biya has also confirmed the launching of an enquiry into the incident, while the Confederation of African Football announced on Monday that they were beginning their own investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
The government has also called on match-going spectators to demonstrate “a sense of responsibility, discipline, and civility of all for the success of this major sporting party”.
“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,” read a statement from African football’s governing body, as seen by GOAL.
“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."
Caf President Dr Patrice Motsepe sent the General Secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba to visit the supporters in hospital in Yaounde in the hours following the crush.
Officials at Yaounde’s Messassi hospital told AP that at least 40 injured people had been transferred to their facility, while the local gendarmerie confirmed to GOAL that deaths and injuries had occurred when supporters attempting to enter the stadium had crushed those who had fallen in front of them.
GOAL on the scene witnessed Red Cross medics attending to patients attached to electrocardiogram machines, wrapped in silver foil having found themselves involved in the crush.
One young teenage supporter was wheeled from the players’ medical room to a waiting ambulance on a stretcher, before being taken to a nearby medical facility.
Medical staff at the stadium appeared in various states of distress in the aftermath of the incident, but were only able to share that they were hopeful that those victims who were transported to hospital in time would receive the treatment they required to pull away from danger.
Fifa have also send their condolences to those affected by the tragedy, offering the “thoughts and prayers of the global football community” to the victims, injured, and staff involved in the incidents ahead of Monday’s game.
Cameroon midfielder Samuel Oum Gouet is one of several players involved in the tournament to acknowledgement the disaster on his social media handles.
"Big thoughts for all of the families hit hard in light of the stampede ahead of our Last 16 match," the KV Mechelen man began on his Facebook page. "Quick recovery to the injured, thank you for your support."
While the names of some victims had begun to circulate in unverified reports in the aftermath of the tragedy, GOAL have received confirmation from one of the local schools in Yaounde of the death of one of their students—Louis Bruno Zinga Ndongo—who attended Catholic Jean Tabi College in the capital.
“There was the kind of stampede we witness everywhere where there are these kinds of large crowd movements,” Afcon Organising Committee spokesman Abel Mbengue said, as per L’Equipe. “We are waiting for reliable information on the victims.”
The 60,000-capacity stadium had a reduced capacity of 50,000 for the match, with the arena operating at 80 per cent capacity due to restrictions installed ahead of the competition in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Cameroon ultimately beat Comoros 2-1 in the encounter to progress to the quarter-finals where they will meet Gambia in Douala on January 29.
Monday's disaster comes less than 48 hours after at least 17 people were killed in a nightclub blaze in Yaounde on Saturday evening.