Scramble for food claims 31 lives in Port Harcourt

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The stampede at the event.

Nigerian Police have confirmed the death of 31 people mostly women and children, while scrambling for food at an event organized by the King’s Assembly Church in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Saturday.

Rivers State Police Commissioner, Eboka Friday, who confirmed the incident, called on religious and charity groups to “ensure they work with the police for security and crowd control” in organising such programmes in the future.

He also disclosed that the police had launched an investigation on the unfortunate incident.

Besides, the King’s Assembly Church lamented the death. It said that it was “deeply saddened” by the incident, and was reviewing its safety and crowd management procedures.

The church started the annual charity in 2014 but said this year’s “turnout, build up and the attendant circumstances were absolutely unanticipated”, and that attendees started gathering before security teams for the event were on site.

It happened in a sports field on Saturday morning where the church was handing out food to the poor, some of whom had waited there overnight.

The crowd “became tumultuous and uncontrollable” and organisers failed to calm the situation, police told AFP.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency that there was frantic pushing and some were trampled underfoot when people trying to reach the entrance were forced back.

“They were telling people ‘Go back, go back, go back,'” Chisom Nwachukwu said. “Some people that were pushing from backwards were marching on those people.”

Security and emergency services were called to the scene to try to bring the situation under control. Some of the injured are being treated at Port Harcourt’s military hospital.

Nigeria has seen several similar tragedies in recent years, including an aid agency food programme in Borno State last year where seven women were trampled to death.

Port Harcourt is the main oil hub in Nigeria, but despite the country’s oil wealth about 60% of Nigerians live below the poverty line.

 

valoa2000@yahoo.com

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