YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon — At least six people died in a crush outside a stadium hosting a match in Africa’s top soccer tournament on Monday, a local government official said, raising fears over Cameroon’s ability to safely stage the continent’s biggest sports event.
The crush happened as crowds struggled to get access to Olembe Stadium in the capital city, Yaoundé, to watch the host country play Comoros in a knockout game in the tournament, the African Cup of Nations.
Officials at the nearby Messassi hospital said at least 40 injured people were rushed to the hospital by police and civilians.
“Some of the injured are in desperate condition,” said Olinga Prudence, a nurse. “We will have to evacuate them to a specialized hospital.”
Witnesses at the stadium said children were among those caught up in the crush. The witnesses said it happened when stadium stewards closed the gates and stopped allowing people in.
Soccer officials said around 50,000 people had tried to attend the match. The stadium can hold 60,000 people but capacity was restricted to 80 percent because of pandemic restrictions.
The Confederation of African Football, which runs the African Cup, said in a statement that it was “investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired.”
Cameroon is hosting the African Cup for the first time in 50 years. It was meant to host the tournament in 2019 but the event was reassigned to Egypt because of concerns with Cameroon’s preparations, particularly the readiness of its stadiums.
Olembe Stadium was one of the venues that was under scrutiny.
Monday’s episode was the second serious blow to the country in the space of a day, after at least 17 people died from a fire set off by a series of explosions at a nightclub in Yaoundé on Sunday.
Following that episode, Cameroon President Paul Biya urged the country to be on guard while it hosts its biggest national sports event in a half century.
Cameroon won Monday’s game 2-1 to move on to the quarterfinals.