Stadium stampede in Indonesia kills 125

Published October 3, 2022
Malang (East Java): Indonesian security personnel arrive on the pitch as a stampede followed a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium on Saturday night.—AFP
Malang (East Java): Indonesian security personnel arrive on the pitch as a stampede followed a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium on Saturday night.—AFP

• President Widodo suspends all games in the top league
• Over 300 people injured in one of the worst stadium disasters in decades

MALANG: A stampede at a soccer stadium in Indon­esia killed at least 125 people and injured more than 320 on Saturday night after police sought to quell violence on the pitch, in one of the world’s worst stadium disasters.

Officers fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse agita­ted supporters of the losing home side who had inv­aded the pitch after the final whistle in Malang, East Java.

“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.

Some local officials had put the death toll at 174, but East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak said the number of fatalities had subsequently been revised down to 125.

The earlier figure may have included duplicate fatalities, he said.

A spokesperson said 323 people were injured, up from the initial count of 180.

The stadium disaster appeared to be the world’s worst in decades.

Video footage from news channels showed fans streaming onto the pitch after Arema FC lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya around 10 in the night, followed by scuffles, and what appeared to be clouds of tear gas and unconscious fans being carried out of the venue.

Many victims at a nearby 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 a paramedic.

The head of another hospital in the area said 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 soccer tragedy in the nation”.

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

Tear gas rules

World soccer’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.

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

President Gianni Infan­tino of Fifa said in a statement 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”.

Infantino has requested a report on the incident from Indonesia’s governing body, which has sent a team to Malang to investigate, a spokesman told reporters.

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

“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 a 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. Some 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium designed to hold 38,000 people.

Football scene

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.

Crowds pack stadiums, but the football scene in Indonesia, a country of 275 million people, has been blighted by hooliganism, heavy-handed policing and mismanagement.

Zainudin Amali, the sports minister, told a TV channel the ministry would re-evaluate safety at football matches, including considering not allowing spectators in stadiums.

Periodic stadium disasters have horrified fans around the world. In 1964, 328 people were killed in a crush when Peru hosted Argentina at the Estadio Nacional.

In a 1989 British disaster, 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives 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.

The head of the Asian Football Confederation, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, said in a statement he was “deeply shocked and saddened to hear such tragic news coming out of football-loving Indonesia”.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2022

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