Eight people, mainly primary school pupils, have died and 48 have sustained various injuries during a stampede at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe this morning.
The incident occurred around 10am when the gate was being opened to let people who wanted to enter the stadium, some five hours before local sides Nyasa Big Bullets, from Blantyre, and Silver Strikers, from Lilongwe, are set to clash as part of Malawi’s 53rd Independence Celebrations today.
President Peter Mutharika, who was to watch the afternoon football match, was then at an interdenominational National Service of Worship that is part of the celebrations.
The tragic news was announced by the organisers towards the end of the national prayers. Mutharika and First Lady Gertrude Mutharika were set to visit KCH to have first- hand information about the tragedy soon after the prayers ended.
Earlier in the day,several police vehicles, ambulances and vehicles of volunteers rushed the dead and injured to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), where hospital personnel seemed overwhelmed by the emergency. Dozens of onlookers –others checking for relatives and yet others weeping after seeing the tragic scenes—crammed at the hospital’s emergency section, as they saw the dead and injured being whisked into the hospital.
The Nation Online crew, at the hospital some 20 minutes after the first seriously injured children had arrived, saw the hospital personnel and volunteers working frantically to treat the injured in four rooms in the emergency section. All beds were occupied by the injured, with many of them lying on the floor and being attended from there.
KCH officials then did not confirm the number of dead and injured in the stampede. “As you can see, we are busy and the Trollies bringing in those affected in the stampede. Come back later, by that time we may have the details you are looking for,” said one senior medical officer.
Most of the injured were under the age of 10. One of the children said many of the injured were from the Mtsiriza area. She said they were among children, mainly pupils, in surrounding sprawling townships of Ntandile and residential areas in Areas 47 and 49, who wanted to gain entry into the stadium to watch the free-of-charge football match later in the afternoon.