Ivory Coast mourning victims of New Year's Eve stampede (VIDEO)


People stand next to clothing and various items spread over the pavement at the scene following a stampede in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, on January 1, 2013. At least 60 people died and at least dozens were injured as crowds stampeded overnight during celebratory New Year's fireworks, rescue workers said.



Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara today declared three days of mourning for the victims of a deadly stampede during New Year's Eve celebrations in the West African country, the BBC reported.

At least 61 people were crushed to death, and more than 200 injured, as they returned home from a fireworks display at a stadium in the commercial capital of Abidjan at around 2 a.m., the Associated Press reported.

According to Reuters, the victims included many children, and the death toll is expected to rise. 

The exact cause of the stampede remains unclear. Agence France-Presse said the stampede began near the main entrance of Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, where security had used tree trunks as crowd control barriers.

One theory, according to the BBC, is that a group of knife-wielding youths was stealing people's mobile phones, provoking panic among the large crowd. 

The flow of people had caused a "very large crush," Lieutenant Colonel Issa Sako told AFP. "In the crush, people were walked over and suffocated by the crowd."

Photos showed blood stains and abandoned clothing scattered outside the stadium this morning.

The BBC said the 65,000-capacity stadium, located in the central Plateau area of Abidjan, was named after the founding president of Ivory Coast. The night before it had hosted a concert by American performer Chris Brown.

The New Year's Eve fireworks had been promoted as a symbol of peace and national renewal under Ouattara.

Ouattara has visited some of the wounded in hospital, and promised that the government would pay for the costs of their medical treatment, the BBC said.

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