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Ivory Coast stampede survivors blame barricades

By INZA BAKAYOKO Published: January 3, 2013

Ouattara also postponed the traditional New Year's receptions at his residence, which had been scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

The leader of a human rights organization said that deadly incidents were predictable because the police and civil authorities had not taken adequate protective measures.

“The situation is deplorable,” said Thierry Legre, president of the Ivorian League of Human Rights. “It is our first tragedy of 2013 but in 2012 we could already see possibility of such a tragedy because there are not adequate authorities patrolling our roads and waters.”

Legre said the New Year's stampede “exposes our weak and dysfunctional civil protection system. This must be corrected immediately. The government cannot invite people to this kind of public gathering without taking adequate precautions to protect their safety and their lives.”

He called on the government “to implement measures to avoid such tragedies in the future by reinforcing the civil protection system.”

The government organized the fireworks to celebrate Ivory Coast's peace, after several months of political violence in early 2011 following disputed elections.

Just one night before the New Year's incident, there had been a big concert at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium where American rap star Chris Brown performed. That Sunday night event was for the Kora Awards for African musicians. No serious incidents were reported from that event.

In 2009, 22 people died and over 130 were injured in a stampede at a World Cup qualifying match at the Houphouet Boigny Stadium, prompting FIFA, soccer's global governing body, to impose a fine of tens of thousands of dollars on Ivory Coast's soccer federation. The stadium, which officially holds 35,000, was overcrowded at the time of the disaster.

Another African stadium tragedy occurred on New Year's Eve in Angola where 13 people, including four children, died in a stampede during a religious gathering at a sports stadium in Luanda, the capital.

Angop, the Angolan news agency, cited officials as saying Tuesday that 120 people were also injured. The incident happened on New Year's Eve when tens of thousands of people gathered at the stadium and panic ensued. Faustino Sebastiao, spokesman for the national firefighters department, says those who died were crushed and asphyxiated.

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