Hearses carry away bodies from Mali stampede

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2011 3:52 PM
Hearses carry away bodies from Mali stampede

Hearses rolled in and out of Bamako's largest morgue Tuesday as families came to retrieve the bodies of loved ones killed in a stampede during a religious ceremony in the Malian capital.

Sekou Toure, the director of the morgue, said 35 people had been killed in the deadly rush which occurred in the capital's main football stadium. All but three of the victims were female, and many were young girls.

Men stood around dazed and red-eyed from a night of tears. Women comforted each other in small groups as they waited for their turn to collect the dead.

Ibrahim Sogore had come to pick up the body of his brother's wife. "My mother, my sisters were there too _ almost my whole family. But it's just my brother's wife who died. She was 26," he said.

"My brother is at home in shock. He can't even move. It's a bitter, painful day," Sogore added.

Inside the morgue a woman and her child lay next to each other among the dead, their bodies still covered in dirt and their clothes torn.

Djibo Diango, a doctor at Bamako's Gabriel Toure hospital, said the victims died from head wounds, spinal injuries, crushed internal organs or suffocation. He said one person remained critically injured.

Tens of thousands had gathered inside the stadium on Monday evening to receive blessings from one of Mali's best known imams, Osman Madani Haidara. They brought bottles of water to be blessed by him.

Eyewitnesses say the 35,000-seat stadium where the event took place was filled well beyond capacity, and people were simply trying to leave too quickly after the ceremony was over. The victims were either pinned to the ground or up against a metal barrier.

Because the event was a religious one, men and women typically sit in separate sections. The high number of female victims could be because the women left at the same time, separate from the men.

The Malian government has said everything will be done to find out what went wrong. It is still not clear what exactly started the crush.

Last year, at least 15 people died in another stampede at a mosque in Timbuktu during the Muslim holy period of Maouloud. This week's tragedy also occurred at a Maouloud ceremony.

"The whole of Mali is in mourning today," said Sogore. "It's a real catastrophe."