More than 30 people were killed on Saturday in southern Nigeria after a stampede broke out at a crowded church charity event where food was distributed.
Shoes and slippers were scattered on the ground after the disaster in the city of Port Harcourt in the southern Rivers state, as people tried to break into the event, police and witnesses said.
A local Kings Assembly church organization offered food and gifts to the poor at the Port Harcourt Polo Club when a “mammoth” crowd spiraled out of control, Rivers State police said.
“Unfortunately, the crowd became tumultuous and uncontrollable, and all efforts by the organizers to come to sanity proved unsuccessful,” the police said in a statement.
“A total of 31 people died in the stampede.”
Posted on social media and verified by AFP, families showed crying and tending wounded, many of them children, outside the city’s military hospital.
Witnesses described frantic pushing and trampling as people trying to get in were forced back.
“They said to people ‘Go back, go back, go back,'” said witness Chisom Nwachukwu. “Some people pushing from behind marched on those people.”
Police say a criminal investigation is underway.
Godwin Tepikor, the coordinator of the National Disaster Response Organization for the Southern Region, said AFP church members were inside when the crowd rushed in.
“A huge crowd from outside burst into the club through a narrow gate, resulting in a stampede,” he said.
Church officials were not immediately available for comment.
Nigeria has witnessed several disastrous food distribution tragedies in recent years, including a food program run by an aid agency in North Borno state, where seven women were trampled to death last year.
Saturday morning’s disaster came as leaders of the opposition People’s Democratic Party gathered in the federal capital Abuja to select their candidate for the 2023 presidential race, with Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike among the hopefuls.
Port Harcourt is the main oil hub in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the continent’s largest petroleum producer.
Despite the oil wealth, according to a recent World Bank report, as many as four in ten Nigerians live below the national poverty line.
The crisis in Ukraine has also pushed up the cost of food and fuel across the continent as wheat and gas supplies are impacted, with aid agencies warning of worsening food insecurity in Africa.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)