Cameroon and the Confederation of African Football have ordered an investigation into Monday night’s deadly stampede at a stadium in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde. Fans trying to enter Olembe Stadium to watch an Africa Football Cup of Nations (AFCON) match between Cameroon and the Comoros overpowered hundreds of police and left at least eight people dead and 38 wounded.
At Yaounde's Messassi Hospital, a nurse implored a crowd of people asking about injured friends and relatives to be calm and maintain social distancing. He said the hospital is still attending to seven casualties from the crush of fans.
Among those looking for missing relatives was 27-year-old merchant Prosper Chindo, who lost track of his uncle and two children after they went to the stadium.
“I have visited at least seven hospitals this morning and I still cannot find them," he said. "I have asked the police if they have an idea of where my uncle and children can be, but the police have been of no help. I am confused. I do not know what to do next.”
Cameroonian authorities say six people died at the stadium while two others died on the way to the hospital.
A government spokesman in a statement said seven of the 38 injured football fans were in critical condition at Yaounde’s Central Hospital.
Cameroon’s public health minister visited the injured at the hospitals and said President Paul Biya has ordered victims to be treated free of charge.
Cameroon national football team player Fai Collins, who was playing in the Monday evening match, said the players are saddened by the loss of life.
“I hope the authorities will take the various measures they need to take [so that] next time it doesn’t happen again," he said. "Our condolences to the families that have lost [their members]. It is really sad, it’s really, really sad.”
President Biya and the Confederation of African Football have ordered separate investigations to determine the cause of the stampede.
The stadium was authorized to have a maximum of 40,000 people but authorities say there were an estimated 57,000 at Monday’s match.
Last week, Cameroonian authorities said spectator turnout was low due to the pandemic and regulations requiring proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result.
To help fill the stadiums, Cameroon launched a campaign for fans to be tested and vaccinated, with several thousand getting the jab to watch AFCON, Africa’s top football tournament.
But Cameroon’s Ministry of Sports and Physical Education said thousands more who refused the vaccine jumped fences and forced their way into stadiums.
Cameroon is hosting the Africa Football Cup of Nations tournament despite the ongoing pandemic and threats from separatists to disrupt the games.
The AFCON championship started on January 9 and will end February 6.