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ICoast vows tough response to stadium disaster

Ivorian authorities vowed Monday to punish those responsible for the Abdijan stadium stampede that killed at least 19 fans as the national team played a World Cup qualifying match.

"Those responsible will be located very quickly and I am sure that sanctions will be taken," Ivorian Football Federation president Jacques Anouma told state television after attending a government crisis meeting.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro called together top ministers, police and sports authorities to discuss the government's response to Sunday's deadly crush, amid accusations that the huge crowd was swelled by non-ticket holders who had bribed their way past security at the Houphouet-Boigny stadium.

Anouma said he was compiling a detailed report demanded by world football body FIFA.

Scattered shoes left behind by the victims and scraps of paper bearing their names formed a grim memorial at the stadium on Monday to the stampede that killed 19 fans and injured more than 130 as the match against Malawi got underway.

Stewards working in and around the stadium said fans, desperate to see top European-based stars, forced their way through the gates and tumbled down the steps of the terracing inside to be crushed by those behind.

Many of the supporters had tickets and were angry at being refused entry, witnesses said, saying that the security forces had taken bribes to let many ticketless people into the match.

"That's always the way it happens," one steward told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Abandoned shoes scattered near a twisted entrance gate were among the only remaining signs of the tragedy on Monday.

A few metres (yards) away, family members left identity papers belonging to the dead, many of them of school age, or scraps of paper on which were written the names of the victims.

Many casualties were treated at the stadium as the match, attended by President Laurent Gbagbo, went ahead and the worst injured were taken to the Treichville hospital in Abidjan and a military hospital.

The west African country's newspapers raised questions on Monday over why the match was allowed to continue as the disaster unfolded in the stands.

At least six of the injured were in a serious condition in hospital on Monday, the health ministry said.

Barcelona's Ivory Coast international Yaya Toure, who did not play due to injury, said the national team wanted to honour the victims by reaching the World Cup finals.

"There was a tragedy and that is difficult because they are supporters of Ivory Coast and we know them well," he was quoted as saying on the club's website.

"We have to go far in this competition for all those who died."

Meanwhile the families of the victims had the grim task of recovering the bodies of their loved ones from Abidjan's main morgue.

A tearful Lassana Toure and his wife Mariam arrived at the mortuary to recover the body of his 17-year-old son Aboubacar. "He told me he was going to support the Elephants, and he never came back," said a sobbing Toure, referring to the national team's nickname.

Aminata Doumbia was mourning the loss of her 14-year-old brother Djaninin.

"How am I going to tell our mother," she said, as she dialled a number on her cellphone.

Interior Minister Desire Tagro said the stampede happened as the match was about to kick-off and "everyone absolutely wanted to get in".

The recently renovated stadium has an official capacity of 35,000 but was packed with fans eager to see Ivory Coast's European-based stars such as Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou of Chelsea and Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal.

The hosts won 5-0.

Hundreds of people have been killed in stadium riots and stampedes in Africa over the last decade.

The worst in recent years was a stadium crush in Ghana's capital Accra which left 126 people dead in 2001.

Earlier the same year, 43 people died in a crush at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Copyright 2009 AFP Global Edition
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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Mar 29, 2009
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