By Paul Jongas in Africa and Stefan J. Bos
LUANDA/ABIDJAN (Worthy News)– Up to 13 people were crushed to death and some 120 injured as they tried to enter an overcrowded stadium for an evangelism gathering of a Pentecostal church in Angola's capital Luanda, officials confirmed late Tuesday, January 1.
Angolan news agency Angop cited emergency services as saying that the victims, including at least four children, died in a stampede at the gates of the Cidadela Desportiva stadium, where the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) organized the meeting on New Year's Eve.
"We were expecting 70,000 people but far more turned up," explained Ferner Batalha, IURD's deputy bishop, in published remarks.
Faustino Sebastiao, the civil protection spokesman, told reporters that the victims were crushed and asphyxiated by a crowd of people who were rushing to enter the stadium after only two of the four gates had been opened.
Of the injured survivors a dozen people remained hospitalized Tuesday, January 1, local media reported.
It was believed to be the bloodiest incident in the IURD's history, a Pentecostal Christian church created in 1977 in Brazil, where it reportedly has over 8 million followers. IURD claims to be present in most countries of the world.
The incident came as elsewhere in Africa, the people of Ivory Coast began three days of national mourning after the president promised a speedy investigation into a New Year's Day stampede that killed 60 people there, most of them women and children.
"The president of the republic offers his saddest condolences to the families and close relations of the victims and ensures them of his compassion in those painful circumstances," President Alassane Ouattara's office said in a statement issued late Tuesday, January 1.
Reporters said the incident occurred in the early hours of Tuesday, January 1, near a stadium in the central Plateau area of the city where a fireworks display was held.
Witnesses said the stampede occurred around 1 a.m. local time when people were heading home after the event.
The dead included 26 children, 28 women and six men, Youth Minister Alain Lobognon reported via his Twitter website.
Most of the dead are believed to be children aged between eight and 15.
Reprinted with permission from Worthy News' Partner News Agency BosNewsLife.