A stampede at a soccer stadium in Indonesia has killed 125 people and injured more than 320 after police used tear gas to quell a pitch invasion, authorities said on Sunday, 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, on Saturday night, the region’s police chief Nico Afinta told reporters.
“It had gotten anarchic. They started attacking officers; they damaged cars,” Nico said, adding that the crash occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.
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.
East Java police did not respond to a request for comment on whether they were aware of the regulations against using gas in stadiums.
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 the local Kanjuruhan hospital. “Many lives have been wasted.”
The stadium disaster appeared to be the world’s worst in decades. Wiyanto Wijoyo, the head of Malang’s health agency, put the final death toll at 125 and injuries at 323.
Video footage from local news channels showed fans streaming onto the pitch after Arema FC lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya around 10 p.m. (1500 GMT), followed by scuffles and what appeared to be clouds of tear gas and unconscious fans being carried out of the venue.
Many victims at the nearby Kanjuruhan hospital suffered from trauma, shortness of breath and a lack of oxygen due to a large number of people at the scene affected by the gas, said hospital head Bobi Prabowo.
Bobi told Metro TV that some victims had sustained brain injuries and the fatalities included a 5-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, PSSI, to suspend all games in the top league BRI Liga 1, until an investigation had been completed.
Inside the stadium at night, a burned chair still lay unattended while slippers and shoes were strewn haphazardly. A damaged police car was also towed outside in a clean-up.
At a funeral of two brothers, age 14 and 15, in Malang who had been attending a soccer match for the first time, their relative Endah Wahyuni said: “My family and I didn’t think it would turn out like this,” adding that they were “quiet and obedient.