PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images
NIGERIA – At least 31 people were killed Saturday (May 28th) in a stampede in southern Nigeria during a church-sponsored food distribution, police said.
Shoes and sandals lay on the ground after the disaster in the town of Port Harcourt, Rivers state, police and witnesses said.
“Unfortunately, the crowd grew agitated and out of control and all efforts by organizers to restore calm failed, hence the stampede,” police said in a statement. “A total of 31 people lost their lives in the stampede.”
Children among the wounded
Images posted on social media and verified by AFP show families crying and caring for the injured, including many children, outside the city’s military hospital. The police announced the opening of a criminal investigation to determine the exact circumstances of the tragedy.
“A huge crowd from outside poured into the (polo) club through a narrow gate, which caused the stampede,” local National Emergency Management Agency official Godwin told AFP. Tepikor. “The wounded and the dead were evacuated to the hospital and the morgue”.
Church officials were not immediately available to respond. The event was organized by the King’s Assembly Church to provide food and various supplies to the needy at a polo club ground in the oil town.
Already several deadly stampedes in the country
In recent years, Nigeria has experienced several tragedies during stampedes linked to food distributions, notably in 2021 during an operation organized by a humanitarian agency in the state of Borno, in the north of the country, where seven women were died after being trampled on by the crowd.
Saturday morning’s stampede came as leaders of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gathered in the capital, Abuja, to choose their candidate for the 2023 presidency from among several officials, including the governor of Rivers State, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike.
Port Harcourt is the main oil hub of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the continent’s leading producer of black gold. Despite these hydrocarbon riches, four out of ten Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to a recent World Bank report.
A situation aggravated by the Ukrainian crisis which has caused the cost of foodstuffs and fuel to soar, affecting supplies of wheat and gas.
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