Guatemala concert stampede leaves at least 9 dead, 20 injured

Emergency services say the victims died in a crush of people during an event celebrating the nation’s independence.

Paramedics and government officials stand at a scene of a deadly stampede in Guatemala that left at least 9 dead
Paramedics and government officials stand at the scene following a deadly stampede at a concert to commemorate the country's Independence Day in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, September 15 [Stringer/Reuters]

At least nine people have been killed and 20 others injured in a stampede at an outdoor concert in western Guatemala, emergency workers said.

Local media reported that the victims were crushed as thousands of people tried to leave an open-air esplanade at the end of a concert during the traditional “Xelafer” festival in Quetzaltenango, about 200km (125 miles) west of the capital Guatemala City, early on Thursday.

First aid workers were helping injured people and ambulances were at the scene, images from Guatemala’s Red Cross showed on Twitter.

“The Guatemalan Red Cross and volunteer firefighters stabilised more than 20 injured people and nine people died at the scene,” the relief agency tweeted.

The event was held to mark Independence Day in the Central American country, local media said.

Translation: Preliminary reports of nine people dead and more than 20 injured after a human stampede that occurred in zone 9 of Xela. Relatives have come to identify the bodies of their relatives at the venue where a concert marking the independence of Guatemala was held.

Nancy Queme, who was at the concert, told The Associated Press news agency that thousands of people attended the concert. “Because of the rain, there was a lot of mud,” she said. “I think because of this people couldn’t move and they fell.”

The lineup of bands had started playing on Wednesday afternoon, and Queme said there were families with children even in the early hours of Thursday.

“They closed off the whole area and only left two access [points],” she said. “The entrances seemed really small to me. I stayed pretty far back and decided to leave minutes before the end of the concert.”

The injured people, some with suspected fractures, were taken to hospital, local firefighters said on Twitter.

An outdoor concert venue stands empty in Guatemala after a deadly stampede
The outdoor concert venue stands empty after the deadly stampede in Quetzaltenango [Gustavo Rodas/AP Photo]

The dead have not yet been named by authorities, Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre reported.

Local media said two children were among those who died. Al Jazeera could not independently verify that information.

Amilcar Rivas, Quetzaltenango’s city manager, said the event organisers did not have a grip on security and crowd control. He said the event did have a permit.

Local media said the event was organised by a beer company.

It was the first time in three years that Guatemala celebrated its 1821 independence from Spain after the previous two years’ celebrations were called off due to COVID-19.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies