Date: January 01 2013
ABIDJAN: The Ivory Coast President, Alassane Ouattara, declared the first of three days of national mourning on Wednesday after a stampede killed at least 60 people early on New Year's Day in the country's commercial capital, Abidjan.
The stampede broke out in Plateau, Abidjan's business district, following a New Year's Eve fireworks display, killing 60 people and wounding 49, the Interior Minister, Hamed Bakayoko, said.
Victims included 26 children, 28 women and six men, the Youth Minister, Alain Lobognon, said in a Facebook post linked through his Twitter feed. Piles of abandoned shoes and clothing could also be seen at the stadium, where soldiers and police were deployed, along with United Nations peacekeepers.
''The President of the Republic offers his saddest condolences to the families and close relations of the victims and ensures them of his compassion in those painful circumstances,'' Mr Ouattara's statement said.
The President has asked for an investigation to be carried out as soon as possible to ''determine the circumstances and causes of the stampede''.
Witnesses said the stampede began near the entrance to the city's main stadium, where security had set up tree trunks as crowd control barriers.
A police source said the crush occurred when two streams of spectators going in opposite directions crossed paths. A security source added that rescue services ''took some time to arrive''.
The flow of people had caused a ''very large crush'', said the head of military rescue workers, Lieutenant Colonel Issa Sako. ''In the crush, people were walked over and suffocated by the crowd.''
A mother named Zeinab who had taken two of her children to the fireworks display found one of them in the hospital, a small boy who lay on a bed in a groggy state.
Zeinab said she ''hurt all over''.
''I don't know what happened but I found myself lying on the ground with people stepping on me, pulling my hair or tearing my clothes,'' she said.
She said she had been knocked unconscious and pulled from the crowd by a young man.
The New Year's fireworks, the city's second in two years, had been touted as a symbol of renewal under Mr Ouattara after the violent post-election crisis that tore the country apart from December 2010 to April 2011, killing 3000 people.
Though the troubled west African nation is still recovering from the political crisis, Mr Ouattara had delivered an optimistic New Year's message, saying the country had ''possibilities like seldom before'' and promising it would soon reap the rewards of economic growth.
Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse
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