100 Dead in Ghana Soccer Stampede

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) - A stampede at a packed soccer match between top Ghana teams killed at least 100 people Wednesday night, a top government official said. Panic set in when police fired tear gas to subdue unruly fans, witnesses said.

An injured soccer fan arrives at the Ridge Hospital after a stampede at a packed soccer match in Accra, Ghana Wednesday May 9, 2001

Hometown team Accra Hearts of Oak was leading 2-1 against Asante Kotoko with five minutes left when Asante supporters began throwing bottles and chairs onto the field, witnesses said.

Police responded by firing tear gas, creating panic in the stands as spectators rushed to escape the gas, they said. Ambulances raced through the streets of this seaside capital more than an hour after the stampede at Accra Stadium, the city's main playing field. Radio stations were broadcasting appeals for all doctors to report to work to help treat the injured.

An injured soccer fan arrives at the Ridge Hospital after a stampede at a packed soccer match in Accra, Ghana Wednesday May 9, 2001

``It is a great national tragedy,'' said Minister of Presidential Affairs Jake Obetsebi-Amptey, who visited the hospital.

``Many people have died and many more are wounded and are bleeding.''

He said at least 100 people were killed. Hospital officials also gave that figure, but some local media reported that more than 120 fans were killed in the melee.

Accra Hearts of Oak - includes player information, team history, news, match results, and more.

Dead bodies are lined up in Ridge Hospital

Dead bodies are lined up the Ridge Hospital

The stampede was the fourth soccer tragedy to hit an African country in a month.

It was also the latest challenge facing the fledgling government President John Kufuor.

The hallways of Ghana's military hospital No. 37, where many of the casualties had were taken, were crowded with bleeding, injured people, as relatives frantically searched for loved ones.

Obetsebi-Amptey urged relatives to return home, saying they were crowding the hospital and creating problems. ``What is important now is to remain calm ... It is a night for us to mourn and not a night to worsen an already bad situation with anger and impatience.''

At the Ridge Hospital, bodies in dusty, ripped clothing were covered in sheets and laid out on the floor early Thursday. Many wore jeans and bare feet. A wounded woman was helped into the hospital, with one man supporting her under the arms and another carrying her intravenous tubes.

Kufuor, who took office in January pledging to rebuild this West African nation's ailing economy, is dealing with a scandal that broke last week, further taxing the poor country's resources.

Ghana's Justice Minister Addo-Dankwa Akuffo-Addo announced that five former top officials were charged in connection with a failed project to grow rice for Ghana's hungry that left the government holding $20 million in debts.

Panel Recommends Stampede Charges

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) - A Ghana commission of inquiry has recommended charges against police in Africa's deadliest soccer disaster, a May 9 stampede in which 126 soccer fans were killed, the commission chairman said. The panel recommended prosecution for alleged reckless use of firearms on the part of police, who fired tear gas into crowds at Accra's main stadium to try to quell unruly soccer fans, chairman Sam Okudzeto said. The tear gas set off a panicked rush for the exits. In the stampede, 126 fans were smothered or crushed to death, and scores more were injured.

Policemen involved in the disaster should be punished as a warning to others in public service, Okudzeto said. Okudzeto presented findings of the five-member panel to Ghana President John Agyekum Kufuor on Friday. The report has yet to be made public.

If Kufuor accepts the findings, charges will follow automatically against police, under the commission's mandate. ``Members of the commission are competent people and their judgment must be respected,'' said Ernest Poku, inspector general of police. He refused comment on the findings, other than to say Kufuor's decision ``should be in the national interest.''

Some police have objected to the government inquiry, saying police should have been allowed to handle the matter. Appointed by Kufuor, the commission held 17 public hearings, heard 102 witnesses, and visited seven sites in Ghana and two stadiums in Great Britain.

In an interim report last month, the panel said lack of basic safety measures contributed to the death toll. The night of the disaster, investigators said, no ambulances were on standby at the crowded stadium, the stadium clinic was closed and there were no security guards at the exits.

The final report also recommended a tightening of police training and discipline, after commissioners came across a string of allegedly lax procedures in investigating the disaster, Okudzeto said. They included improper records of police ammunition and falsified entries on officers' comings and goings at the stadium, he said.