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As many as 31 people are believed to have lost their lives on Saturday morning in a surge of crowds at an event at King’s Assembly Pentecostal Port Harcourt Church, Nigeria.
an awful stampede claimed the lives of entire families, crushed to death before the opening of the church’s ‘Shop For Free’ program, a charity program which was to provide gifts and food to celebrate its fourth anniversary. Local news fears the death toll will rise.
A witness said a pregnant woman and many children were among those who died, reports The Associated Press.
UPDATE: Police confirm 31 dead in Rivers Church stampedehttps://t.co/0kpkGysBt9 pic.twitter.com/pQaN1mhjow
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The charity event was due to start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, but some arrived as early as Friday to secure their places, then at 5 a.m. that morning, the police spokeswoman confirmed. Grace Iringe Koko.
Sources say a sports group was due to practice at 8am, opening a small door to the premises, allowing crowds to force their way inside. Those in the very front were immediately trampled on.
“I counted about 21 bodies on the ground,” a witness said. said. “It is not the first time that the church has organized this program, but the crowd from yesterday until this morning is important. It was said that gifts and free food would be served. It is very painful.”
Black Saturday: 40 people were feared dead in a stampede that happened at the King’s Assembly Church ‘Shop For Free’ program at the Port Harcourt Polo Club this morning.
Hundreds of people who had shown up to receive food at the church event burst through a doorway, causing the stampede. pic.twitter.com/sWAQTBubRF
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Representative of the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria Godwin Tepikor told the outlet that the bodies of the deceased were able to be evacuated and brought to the morgue by first responders.
Videos of the horrific stampede showed the clothes and shoes intended for distribution alongside masses of dead bodies.
The ‘Shop For Free scheme’ was canceled while police investigate the cause of the influx of crowds.
Similar stampedes have occurred in Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy.
According to National Bureau of Statistics40% of the country’s population, or about 83 million people, live in poverty.
The King’s Assembly Pentecostal Church declined to comment on the tragedy.