31 killed in stampede at church food event in Nigeria

A total of 31 people lost their lives in the stampede, police said. (Representative)

Abuja, Nigeria:

More than 30 people were killed in southern Nigeria on Saturday after a stampede broke out during a packed church charity event where food was being distributed.

Shoes and flip-flops were scattered on the ground after the disaster in the southern city of Port Harcourt, in the southern state of Rivers, when people tried to force their way into the event, police and witnesses said.

A local church organization Kings Assembly was offering food and gifts to the poor at the Port Harcourt Polo Club when a “mammoth” crowd got out of hand, Rivers State Police said.

“Unfortunately, the crowd became boisterous and uncontrollable, and all efforts made by organizers to bring about sanity proved abortive,” police said in a statement.

“A total of 31 people lost their lives in the stampede.”

Footage posted on social media and verified by AFP showed families crying and tending to the wounded, many of them children, outside the city’s military hospital.

Witnesses described frantic shoving and being run over as people trying to enter the entrance were forced to retreat.

“They were telling people ‘Come back, come back, come back,'” said witness Chisom Nwachukwu. “Some people who were pushing backwards were marching on these people.”

Police said a criminal investigation is under way.

The coordinator for the southern region of the National Emergency Management Agency, Godwin Tepikor, told AFP that church members were sitting inside when the crowd of people rushed in.

“A huge crowd from outside burst into the club through a narrow gate, resulting in the stampede,” he said.

Church representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nigeria has seen several stampede tragedies over food distribution in recent years, including an aid agency food program in northern Borno state where seven women were trampled to death last year.

Saturday morning’s debacle came as leaders of the opposition People’s Democratic Party were meeting in the federal capital Abuja to select their candidate for the 2023 presidential race, with Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike among the hopefuls.

Port Harcourt is Nigeria’s main oil hub, the most populous country in Africa and the continent’s largest oil producer.

Despite their oil wealth, four out of 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty level, according to a recent World Bank report.

The crisis in Ukraine has also raised the cost of food and fuel across the continent as supplies of wheat and gas are affected, with aid agencies warning of worsening food insecurity in Africa.

(This story was not edited by the NDTV team and is automatically generated from a distributed feed.)

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