Created on: January 04, 2013 Last Updated: January 05, 2013
The year 2013 was ushered in with a lot of fanfare, parties and spectacular fireworks the world over. From Sydney and Hong Kong to Dubai, London and New York, millions of people gathered on the streets to witness the colorful pyrotechnics that lit up the sky to mark the beginning of the new calendar year.
However, the early hours of New Year morning saw a nation in West Africa plunge into abject sorrow when a stampede and its resulting chaos claimed over 60 lives in
Ivory Coast’s largest city and economic capital, Abidjan.
According to the reports emerging from the grief-stricken country, thousands of people had gathered in the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in the Plateau neighborhood to view the New Year’s fireworks display. After the celebrations were over, people began to leave the stadium while another horde of revelers began to arrive. Soon there was a stampede in which hundreds of people were suffocated or trampled underfoot. BBC reports that many of the victims are young children aged between eight and 15.
Matters were not helped by the late arrival of the rescue teams. The dead include 28 women, 26 children and six men while more than 200 people are injured. The exact cause of the stampede is still unknown though survivors are blaming the make-shift barricades that were placed on the roads for security reasons. Media reports also lay the blame on groups of armed thieves who were snatching mobile phones and other valuables from the people who were leaving the stadium, triggering mass panic and chaos.
The first day of the New Year in Ivory Coast saw distraught families looking for their loved ones in hospitals and morgues while blood, clothes and shoes remain strewn on the streets of Abidjan at the site of the stampede. Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattaraha has declared three days of national mourning after the tragic incident and pledged to investigate the cause of the tragedy.
The Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, named after the first president of the country, is no stranger to such tragic incidents. In March 2009, during a World Cup qualifying match between Ivory Coast and Malawi, there were deaths and injuries to hundreds of spectators in this same arena when mismanagement and overcrowding had caused a stampede.
Ivory Coast has had a long history of civil unrest and political turmoil. The new government had organized the New Year celebrations and fireworks to celebrate peace in Ivory Coast, after several months of political violence following the disputed elections in 2011. It is quite tragic that the joyous festivities turned into such a terrible tragedy for many families marring the New Year's celebrations in the Ivory Coast.
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