16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina during the independence celebrations.
Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina during the independence celebrations.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ANTANANARIVO (AFP) - At least 16 people were crushed to death and dozens injured in Madagascar on Wednesday (June 26) at a stadium hosting national independence day celebrations in the capital Antananarivo.

The bodies of sixteen victims, including three children, were stored at the mortuary of HJRA hospital in the city, AFP journalists said.

Hospital director Oliva Alison Rakoto had earlier reported 15 dead and 80 wounded.

According to witnesses at the hospital, the accident occurred in the afternoon outside the Mahamasina stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark the national holiday.

At the end of a military parade, security forces opened the gates to allow spectators to leave the enclosure, causing the crowd to mass outside the stadium, witnesses said.

The police then immediately closed the gates and blocked the crowd, witnesses said, causing a deadly pile up.

"When the organisers opened the gate, we were in the front row, in the queue," said Jean Claude Etienne Rakotoarimanana, 29, who suffered bruises from the crush.

"Suddenly, people ran to get in front of us. They shoved us, some even punched us and pulled us," he added, saying he then fainted.

In September 2018, a deadly crush killed one person and injured 30 people in similar circumstances at the entrance of the same stadium during a football match between Madagascar and Senegal.