At least 12 people have been killed in an apparent crush at an El Salvador stadium where football fans had gathered to watch a local tournament, according to the police and government officials.
“Preliminarily, we have a negative result of 12 victims, nine who are here in the stadium and three more that we have been informed are in different hospital centres,” National Civil Police (PNC) Director Mauricio Arriaza told reporters on Sunday.
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“Salvadoran soccer is in mourning,” Arriaza said.
The police said initial reports point to a crush of fans who tried to enter the stadium in the Central American country’s capital San Salvador to watch a match between FC Alianza and Club Deportivo FAS.
“There were only two gates open in the whole stadium,” one fan told La Prensa Grafica. “The people outside wanted to force their way in, and they all fell on us.”
Another fan, Sandra Argueta, said children and elderly people were affected and the gate had to be kicked down “to get some air because there were a lot of people and we were suffocating”.
El Salvador’s Interior Minister Juan Carlos Bidegain said the civil protection service’s first responders were on the scene and attending to people affected by the incident.
The match was suspended as emergency personnel evacuated people from the stadium, where hundreds of police officers and soldiers gathered as ambulance sirens wailed.
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FIFA’s chief offered his condolences Sunday after a “tragic” stampede left 12 people dead at an El Salvador stadium where football fans had gathered to watch a local tournament.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives after the tragic incidents that have taken place in El Salvador,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
In a statement on Twitter, the Salvadoran Football Federation said it “deeply regrets” the events that occurred at the Cuscatlan Stadium.
“It also expresses solidarity with the relatives of those affected and deceased in this incident,” the tweet said, adding that the organisation would immediately request a report on the incident.
Health Minister Francisco Alabi said the country’s hospital network was “providing medical care to all patients” in the aftermath of the stampede.
The tragedy comes seven months after 135 people, including more than 40 children, died in a stampede following a football match in Malang, Indonesia.