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Thursday, May 10, 2001, updated at 14:38(GMT+8)

Ghana Officials Confirm 120 Dead in Stadium

At least 120 people died in a soccer stadium stampede in Ghana on Wednesday, officials announced on Thursday.

According to press reports, some 102 dead were brought to the military hospital and officials at two other hospitals confirmed a further 18 fatalities.

"Some died of suffocation but the majority seem to have been killed by being crushed," Twum said.

It was Africa's worst soccer disaster ever and the third on the continent in the past month.

Police criticism

Already it appears the police are being blamed for causing the stampede by firing tear gas into the crowds.

"From the information that I have, I think the lack of control - and I don't want to prejudge the situation but - I think that it was the teargas that caused the problem," he continued, referring to the action taken by the police.

The Chief Executive of Hearts of Oak, Harry Zakour, criticised police for firing up to a dozen teargas canisters in the stadium.

"One would have been enough to scare the public," he said. "It's a very sad story," he added.

Commission of inquiry

Trouble had been anticipated ahead of the game and the authorities had taken extra security measures to prevent the disaster.

"I think we did all we could but this is a human problem," Ghana's deputy sports minister Joe Aggrey said.

"We could never anticipate what human beings could do to disrupt what you have planned so carefully," he added.

"Everybody is devastated. Everyone is just shell-shocked," he lamented.

The deputy sports minister indicated that a commission inquiry would be set up.

Tragedies over Past 15 Years

Following is a list of the previous tragedies at football stadiums in the past 15 years:

1985: Bradford (northern England). A fire in the main stand during a match between Bradford and Lincoln City kills 56 people. The blaze, apparently sparked by a cigarette butt, broke out just before half-time and engulfed the entire wooden stand in a few minutes.

1985: Mexico. Ten people are killed and 30 seriously injured before the final of the Mexico Cup between Nacional Universidad and America. A panic in the crowd led to a stampede at the entrance to the huge Olympic Stadium.

1985: Heysel Stadium, Brussels. Barely three weeks after the tragedy in Bradford, 39 people are crushed to death before the European Champions Cup final between Juventus of Turin and Liverpool. Fights had broken out in the stands between rival fans, and English supporters said a wall collapsed under pressure from spectators who were attempting to flee the clashes. English clubs were banned from European competitions for five years as a result of the tragedy.

1988: Katmandu. More than 100 people are killed and 300 injured in a stampede during a match in Nepal's National Stadium. The tragedy occurred when spectators rushed to find shelter from a powerful hail storm, but found the doors closed.

1989: Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, England. A total of 96 Liverpool supporters are crushed to death and around 300 injured during the semi-final of the FA Cup between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The tragedy occurred when police opened the doors at one entrance to allow around 2,000 people without tickets to enter the stadium, crushing others in the stands.

1991: Orkney, South Africa. Clashes during a friendly match between two rival clubs, the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs, left 40 people dead and 50 injured. The violence broke out after the referee disallowed a goal.

1992: Furiani Stadium, Bastia. Fifteen people are killed and 1, 300 injured when a temporary stand collapses during the semi-final of the French Cup between Bastia and Marseille.

1996: Mateo Flores Stadium, Guatemala. Ninety people are killed and 150 injured in a crush of spectators during a World Cup qualification match between Guatemala and Costa Rica. The stadium was built to accomodate 45,000 people, but held around 60,000.

1996: Tripoli, Libya. Eight people are killed and 42 injured during clashes between supporters of rival clubs.

July 9, 2000: Harare. At least 13 people are killed when spectators rush to leave the national stadium after police set off tear gas grenades during a World Cup qualification match between Zimbabwe and South Africa. The police had intervened to stop spectators from throwing objects onto the pitch after a goal by South Africa.

April 11, 2001: Johannesburg. At least 47 people, among them women and children, are killed when thousands of fans desperate to see a game between South Africa's two most popular teams storm an already packed stadium.

April 29, 2001: Lubumbashi, DRCongo. At least 10 people were killed and 51 injured in a stampede after panic broke out as fans stormed onto the pitch 10 minutes before the final whistle in the match between the two top local teams, FC Lupopo and Tout Puissant Mazembe.

May 9, 2001: Accra. More than 100 people are killed and at least 50 injured following rioting and police intervention after a Ghanaian football league match.

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At least 120 people died in a soccer stadium stampede in Ghana on Wednesday, officials announced on Thursday.

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