Children among 31 killed in stampede at Nigerian church fair: NPR

A view of sandles outside the Kings Assembly Pentecostal church, following a stampede in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on Saturday, May 28, 2022.

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A view of sandles outside the Kings Assembly Pentecostal church, following a stampede in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on Saturday, May 28, 2022.

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ABUJA, Nigeria — A stampede Saturday at a church benefit in southern Nigeria left 31 dead and seven injured in a program aimed at offering hope to those in need. A witness said the dead included a pregnant woman and many children.

The stampede at the event organized by Kings Assembly Pentecostal Church in Rivers State involved people attending the church’s annual “Shop for Free” benefit program, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokeswoman.

Such events are common in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, where more than 80 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics.

Saturday’s charity show was supposed to start at 9 a.m., but dozens showed up at 5 a.m. to secure their place in line, Iringe-Koko said. Somehow the locked door opened, creating a stampede, she said.

Godwin Tepikor of the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency said rescuers were able to evacuate the bodies of the trampled and take them to the morgue. Security forces cordoned off the area.

Later, dozens of residents thronged the scene, mourning the dead and offering what help they could to emergency workers. Medics and emergency workers treated some of the injured as they lay in open fields. Videos from the scene showed clothing, shoes and other items destined for the beneficiaries.

A witness who only identified himself as Daniel said “there were so many children” among the dead. Five of the dead children were from a single mother, he told the AP, adding that a pregnant woman was also killed.

Some church members were attacked and injured by relatives of the victims after the stampede, according to witness Christopher Eze. The church declined to comment on the situation.

The police spokeswoman said the seven injured were “responding to treatment”.

The “Free Shopping” event was put on hold while authorities investigated how the stampede occurred.

Nigeria has seen similar stampedes in the past.

Twenty-four people were killed in a packed church meeting in the southeastern state of Anambra in 2013, while at least 16 people were killed in 2014 when a crowd spiraled out of control during a selection of government posts in the capital. of the nation, Abuja.

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