Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

January 2, 2013

Ivory Coast stampede survivors blame barricades

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Survivors of a stampede in Ivory Coast that killed 61 people, most of them children and teenagers, after a New Year's Eve fireworks display said Wednesday that barricades stopped them from moving along a main boulevard, causing the crush of people.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara ordered three days of national mourning and launched an investigation into the causes of the tragedy but two survivors, in interviews with The Associated Press, indicated why so many died in what would normally be an open area, the Boulevard de la Republic. An estimated 50,000 people had gathered in Abidjan's Plateau district to watch the fireworks. The barricades were described as makeshift.

"Near the Justice Palace we were stopped by some people who built wooden blockades in the street," 33-year-old Zoure Sanate said from her bed in Cocody Hospital. "They told us we must stay in the Plateau area until morning. None of us accepted to stay in Plateau until the morning for a celebration that ended at around 1 a.m.

"Then came the stampede of people behind us," she said. "My four children and I were knocked to the ground. I was hearing my kids calling me, but I was powerless and fighting against death. Two of my kids are in hospital with me, but two others are missing. They cannot be found."

Another hospital patient, Brahima Compaore, 39, said he also was caught in the pile of people stopped by the roadblock.

"I found myself on the ground and people were walking on me," said Compaore. "I was only saved by people who pulled me onto the sidewalk."

Local newspapers are speculating that thieves set up the roadblocks so that pickpockets could steal money and mobile phones from the packed-in people.

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