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Tanzanian Authorities Criticized for Delay in Confirming Death Toll in Stampede

FILE - Women mourn the death of Tanzanian President John Magufuli during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, March 20, 2021.

Authorities in Tanzania took more than a week to confirm that 45 people died in a stampede March 21 at the memorial for late president John Magufuli.

Speaking with local newspapers, city police commander Lazaro Mambosasa said 37 people were injured in the incident at Uhuru Stadium in the business capital, Dar es Salaam, but all have been discharged from local hospitals.

One family lost five relatives in the stampede, and a house attendant was declared missing for two days before family members found him dead at a hospital in the city.

Human rights activists are demanding those behind the tragedy and the delay of information be held accountable.

Rugemeleza Nshala, president of the Tanganyika Law Society, said authorities should explain why they have taken so long to tell people about the incident. There were only rumors on social media for days, he said. If the police fail, he added, it is not right, because article 14 of the constitution guarantees the right for people to live and be given security.

Some Dar es Salaam residents blame authorities for not taking proper precautions in organizing the event.

The stadium was too small to accommodate the crowd, said Juliana Mselle of Dar es Salaam, adding that organizers had to tell citizens that only a certain number of people would be allowed in.

Yasin Abdallah said the delay of information about the stampede also raises concerns about the exact death toll.

People would like to know their loved ones' whereabouts, he said, but authorities didn't get the information out early.

For two days, mourners lined the streets of Dar es Salaam to pay their respects to Magufuli, who authorities said died of heart failure in a local hospital on March 17.

Magufuli, who was 61, was laid to rest in his hometown of Chato in northwestern Tanzania on March 26.