31 die in stampede at Nigeria church event: police

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At least 31 people died in the southern Rivers state after hundreds of people, who turned up to receive food at the church, broke through a gate, causing the stampede. Nigeria has seen several stampede trage-dies over food distribution in recent years.

Local Nigerian media reported the event organ-ised by the King’s Assembly church was offering food and gifts for the poor at a sports field on Satur-day.

«People were there earlier and some got impatient and started rushing, which led to stampeding», said Grace Iringe-Koko, police spokesperson for Rivers state.

Hundreds of people who had turned up to receive food at the church broke through a gate, causing the stampede, according to Iringe-Koko, who confirmed a death toll of 31 people.

Grace Iringe-Koko, police spokesperson in the state, confirmed the casualties to reporters at the scene of the incident in Port Harcourt, the state capi-tal, and said one local church organized the outreach to give out palliatives to the underprivileged in soci-ety before the tragedy occurred.

“It is 31 people that died. It was a stampede be-cause a church was trying to give out palliatives,” Iringe-Koko said.

The event was scheduled to start by 9 a.m. local time, but some people went there earlier and broke into the place, resulting in the stampede, said the spokesperson.

“So people started rushing in and there was a stampede,” she said. Speaking to Xinhua on the phone, Iringe-Koko said rescue operators are work-ing at the scene of the incident, and an investigation has been launched by the police to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the incident.

According to the spokesperson, the nature of the church program was bound to attract a crowd. «The police are on the ground monitoring the situation while the investigation is on going», she added.

Population at risk of malnutrition Nigeria has seen several stampede tragedies over food distribu-tion in recent years.

One incident was at an an aid agency food pro-gramme in north Borno State where seven women were trampled to death last year.

Aid agencies are warning that Nigeria’s popula-tion is increasingly at risk of malnutrition amid lower food production this year. The diversion of global humanitarian funds a re-sult of the conflict in Ukraine is also aggravating the crisis.—AFP

 

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