At least thirty-one people have died in an overnight stampede during an army recruitment drive in a stadium in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, authorities said on Tuesday.
Last week, the army in the central African nation also known as Congo-Brazzaville announced it was recruiting 1,500 people aged between 18 and 25.
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The government said the “tragedy” occurred on Monday night at the Michel d’Ornano Stadium in the heart of Brazzaville, where army recruitment operations were launched on Nov. 14. It did not directly refer to a stampede but said the causes of the incident were being investigated.
The recruitment process has been suspended and a day of mourning declared to pay tribute to 31 recovered bodies and over 140 injured, it said in a statement that revised an earlier reported death toll of 37.
According to local residents, many people were still in the stadium on Monday night when the stampede began. Some people had tried to force their way through gates, with many being trampled in the scramble, residents said.
Unemployment is rampant in the country of 5.8 million people, where according to the World Bank, “75 percent of the Congolese workforce are employed in the informal sector, either self-employed or in low-productivity jobs”.