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Mar 29, 2009

At least 19 dead in Ivory Coast tragedy

At least 19 supporters have died after a wall collapsed before Ivory Coast's World Cup qualifier against Malawi.

Ticketless fans had gathered outside the gates of the 35,000-capacity Houphouet-Boigny arena in the West African country's main city, Abidjan. There was a crush inside the stadium and a wall collapsed.

A rush by spectators led to the collapse of a wall, medical officials said. Police then fired tear gas to clear the crowd, causing a stampede which also left many people injured.

"We have 19 dead and many seriously injured," a military source at the stadium told Reuters.

The incident occurred before kick-off, however the game was allowed to go ahead.

"Spectators who did not buy tickets were jostling before the match," Sports Minister Dagobert Banzio said on state television. "They smashed one of the main gates of the stadium. They were trampled."

He put the number of injured at 132. It is believed many of the injured are in a serious condition.

The country's interior and sports ministers have been locked in an emergency meeting with leaders of the Ivory Coast Football Federation (FIF), FIF president Albert Kakou Anzouan told AFP.

The tragedy followed similar incidents which have marred international matches in Africa in the last decade, including two separate ones in Zambia and the death of 13 people in Zimbabwe nine years ago.

FIFA instigated a programme of stadium inspections across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan's Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches.

The stadium was sold out in advance of the game after cut-price tickets were put on sale.

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