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Stampede kills 61 in Ivory Coast

By Inza Bakayoko

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 1 2013 9:16 p.m. MST

Ivory Coast First Lady Dominique Ouattara, center left, speaks with a person injured in a stampede as they are treated at a hospital in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Tuesday, Jan. 1 2013. At least 61 people were killed early Tuesday in a stampede following a New Year's fireworks display in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial center, said officials. The death toll is expected to rise, according to rescue workers. (AP Photo/Emanuel Ekra)

Associated Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — A crowd stampeded after leaving a New Year's fireworks show early Tuesday in Ivory Coast's main city, killing 61 people — many of them children and teenagers — and injuring more than 200, rescue workers said.

Thousands had gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan's Plateau district to see the fireworks. It was only the second New Year's Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation after a bloody upheaval over presidential elections put the nation on the brink of civil war and turned this city into a battle zone.

Only an hour into the new year, as the crowds poured onto the Boulevard de la Republic after the show, something caused a stampede, said Col. Issa Sako of the fire department rescue team. How so many deaths occurred on the broad boulevard and how the tragedy started is likely to be the subject of an investigation.

Many of the younger ones in the crowd went down, trampled underfoot. Most of those killed were between 8 and 15 years old

"The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200," Sako told Ivory Coast state TV.

Desperate parents went to the city morgue, the hospital and to the stadium to try to find missing children. Mamadou Sanogo was searching for his 9-year-old son.

"I have just seen all the bodies, but I cannot find my son," said a tearful Sanogo. "I don't know what to do."

After the sun came up, soldiers were patrolling the site that was littered with victims' clothes, shoes, torn sandals and other belongings. President Alassane Ouattara and his wife Dominique visited some of the injured in the hospital. The death toll could rise, officials said.

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

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