Crush of fans at African Cup of Nations soccer game leaves 6 dead, at least 40 injured

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Cameroonian soldiers patrol the entrance of the Olembe Stadium prior to the start of AFCON on Jan. 7. A crush of fans at the African Cup of Nations left six dead and at least 40 injured.
Cameroonian soldiers patrol the entrance of the Olembe Stadium prior to the start of AFCON on Jan. 7. A crush of fans at the African Cup of Nations left six dead and at least 40 injured. (Kenzo TriboulliardAFP via Getty Images)

A crush of fans at an African Cup of Nations (AFCON) soccer game on Monday left six dead and more than 40 injured, according to officials in the host nation Cameroon.

The incident occurred at Olembe Stadium in the capital city of Yaounde as fans arrived to watch Cameroon play Comoros. Cameroon is hosting the biennial tournament for the first time in 50 years.

Some injured fans in 'desperate condition'

Naseri Paul Biya, governor of the central region of Cameroon, anticipates more casualties. Nurse Olinga Prudence from the Messassi hospital that's tending to injured patients described the scene.

“Some of the injured are in desperate condition,” Prudence told reporters. “We will have to evacuate them to a specialized hospital.”

Tournament officials told reporters that more than 50,000 people flocked to the stadium that was slated to cap capacity at 48,000. Olembe Stadium normally holds 60,000 spectators, but limited capacity to 80% amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Tournament organizer Confederation of African Football (CAF) released a statement addressing the incident.

“CAF is currently investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired,” the statement reads. “We are in constant communication with Cameroon government and the local organizing committee."

Previous pitch invasion prompted rebuke of tournament security

Thursday's incident occurred days after roughly 40 fans invaded the pitch following an AFCON match between the Ivory Coast and Algeria. Al Jazeera reports the fans in the stands that day appeared to exceed capacity limits set amid COVID-19 restrictions.

That incident on Jan. 20 took place at Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon. No injuries were reported, but CAF fined both teams and condemned Cameroonian organizers for insufficient security measures in a statement earlier Monday:

"In their report, the match officials reported that at the end of the match, the pitch was invaded by around 40 supporters, mainly from the East stand," the CAF statement reads. "The report noted that the numbers of security stewards was insufficient to control the commotion triggered by an Algerian supporter who invaded the pitch."

The CAF disciplinary board issued a subsequent "warning to Cameroonian Football Federation for the lack of security during the said match and stern reminder to strictly comply with the safety regulations."

Per the Associated Press, Cameroon was initially slated to host AFCON in 2019, but lost its bid to Egypt amid concerns the nation's stadiums weren't prepared to host the prestigious tournament.

Monday's game continued despite the tragedy with Cameroon securing a 2-1 win to advance to the tournament's quarterfinals.

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