Death toll from Indonesian football stampede revised down to 125

Published October 2, 2022
<p>Arema FC supporters enter the field after the team they support lost to Persebaya after the league BRI Liga 1 football match at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2, 2022, in this photo taken by Antara Foto.—Antara Foto/Ari Bowo Sucipto/via Reuters</p>

Arema FC supporters enter the field after the team they support lost to Persebaya after the league BRI Liga 1 football match at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2, 2022, in this photo taken by Antara Foto.—Antara Foto/Ari Bowo Sucipto/via Reuters

The death toll from a stampede at a football stadium in Indonesia’s East Java province has been revised down to 125, a government official said on Sunday.

East Java Deputy governor Emil Dardak said the data cross-checked from 10 hospitals in the area showed there were 125 fatalities. Earlier, officials had put the figure as high as 174 in one of the world’s worst stadium disasters.

An East Java police spokesperson said 323 people were injured, up from the initial count of 180.

When frustrated supporters of the losing home team invaded the pitch in Malang in the province of East Java late on Saturday, officers fired tear gas in an attempt to control the situation, triggering the stampede and cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta told reporters.

“It had gotten anarchic. They started attacking officers, they damaged cars,” Nico said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.

The stampede “is a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension”, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Video footage from local news channels showed fans streaming onto the pitch after Arema FC lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya around 10pm. Scuffles can be seen, with what appeared to be tear gas in the air.

A riot police officer fires tear gas during a riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters
A riot police officer fires tear gas during a riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters

Images showed people who appeared to have lost consciousness being carried away by other fans.

Supporters evacuate a man hit by tear gas fired by police during the riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters
Supporters evacuate a man hit by tear gas fired by police during the riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters

Many victims at the Kanjuruhan hospital suffered from trauma, shortness of breath and a lack of oxygen due to the large number of people at the scene affected by tear gas, said hospital head Bobi Prabowo.

Bobi told Metro TV that some victims had sustained brain injuries and that the fatalities included a five-year-old.

President Joko Widodo said authorities must thoroughly evaluate security at matches, adding that he hoped this would be “the last football tragedy in the nation”.

Jokowi, as the president is known, ordered the Football Association of Indonesia, PSSI, to suspend all games in the top league BRI Liga 1 until an investigation had been completed.

Tear gas rules

World football’s governing body FIFA specifies in its safety regulations that no firearms or “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police.

East Java police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they were aware of such regulations.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement to Reuters that the football world was in “a state of shock following the tragic incidents that have taken place in Indonesia” and the event was a “dark day for all involved”.

FIFA has requested a report on the incident from PSSI, which has sent a team to Malang to investigate, PSSI secretary general Yunus Nusi told reporters.

People stand next to a damaged car following a riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters
People stand next to a damaged car following a riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters

Indonesia’s human rights commission also plans to investigate security at the grounds, including the use of tear gas, its commissioner told Reuters.

“Many of our friends lost their lives because of the officers who dehumanised us,” said Muhammad Rian Dwicahyono, 22, crying as he nursed a broken arm at the local Kanjuruhan hospital. “Many lives have been wasted.”

On Sunday mourners gathered outside the gates of the stadium to lay flowers for the victims.

Amnesty International Indonesia slammed the security measures, saying the “use of excessive force by the state … to contain or control such crowds cannot be justified at all”.

The country’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, said in an Instagram post that the stadium had been filled beyond its capacity. He said 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium that is only supposed to hold 38,000 people.

Financial aid would be given to the injured and the families of victims, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa told reporters.

There have been outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia before, with strong rivalries between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.

Zainudin Amali, Indonesia’s sports minister, told KompasTV that the ministry would re-evaluate safety at football matches, including considering not allowing spectators in stadiums.

A damaged car is pictured following a riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters.
A damaged car is pictured following a riot after the league BRI Liga 1 football match between Arema vs Persebaya at Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java province, Indonesia, October 2. — Reuters.

The Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 has suspended games for a week and an investigation had been launched, the Football Association of Indonesia said.

Among global stadium disasters, 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in Britain in April 1989, when an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

Indonesia is scheduled to host the FIFA under-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to stage next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the Euros, after China pulled out as hosts.

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