KWEKWE: At least 11 people died and many were injured in a stampede at a stadium in Zimbabwe as thousands attending a church service tried to leave through the only open exit, police said on Friday.
Police said around 15,000 people were packed into the stadium in Kwekwe, 281 kilometres southwest of Harare, on Thursday evening for an event organised by Walter Magaya, a popular preacher who claims to perform miracles.
Provincial police spokesman Shadreck Mubaiwa said when the service ended worshippers rushed to the only exit and four people died during the crush. Seven others were declared dead on arrival in hospital.
“Because of the pressure some people fell, resulting in the deaths and injuries,” Mubaiwa said.
A witness who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Common sense did not prevail, especially on the security side.”
Church authorities could not be reached for comment but state television quoted spokeswoman Catherine Nyangoni as confirming the deaths and saying the church was working with the police to establish the cause of the tragedy.
Speaking on a local radio station on Thursday night, Magaya said he was “gutted” by the incident.
“I rushed back to the venue and it was very sad, the saddest moment of my life,” he said. “This was our event and as a church we have to take the blame for the tragedy. It is still too early to say what caused the stampede but the fact that the stampede took place at the venue means that part of our system failed to function.”
Magaya’s is among several emerging Pentecostal churches where followers are drawn by promises of miracles.
An event organised by his Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries in the capital two weeks ago was attended by around 200,000 people, according to local media.
Published in Dawn, November 22th, 2014