By Sandra Birungi
After the tragic death of 60 people in Ivory Coast on New Year’s Day, President Alassane Ouattara declared a three-day national mourning to the bereaved families.
“The president of the republic offers his saddest condolences to the families and close relations of the victims and ensures them of his compassion in those painful circumstances,” the President’s office said in a statement issued Tuesday night. “He also asked an investigation to be carried out as soon as possible to determine the circumstances and causes of this stampede,” the statement went on add.
Thousands of people had poured into the streets of Abidjan to join the New Year’s celebration which was seen by some as symbolizing the nation’s return to peace after the protests last year. There was tight security at the New Year’s Eve fireworks show with almost 5,000 extra personnel deployed to ensure people’s security.
President Ouattara went to the scene of the disaster and ordered the government to take care of the injured according to his office shortly after the tragedy occurred.
The dead included 26 children, 28 women and six men, Youth Minister Alain Lobognon reported via Twitter. It all started at 1:00am, just an hour after the New Year was ushered in at Abidjan. There were New Year’s Eve fireworks in Abidjan were families convened to usher in the new year.
According to the Interior Minister, Hamed Bakayoko, it happened when the people were trying to go home after the fireworks display ended in Plateau, the city’s central business district. The crush occured near a stadium. 49 people were injured and two were seriously injured according to Bakayoko.
A senior fire official said on national television that most of the victims were trampled on or suffocated by the surging crowd. Rescue workers arrived on scene two hours later but could not save the victims, the official AIP news agency said.
According to CNN, most of the victims were young people who wanted to join in the celebration while their elders stayed at home. AIP earlier on reported that all the victims were all children, ranging in age from eight to 15.
Ivory Coast is home to around 22 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Our prayers and condolences go out to the deceased’s families, take heart.