At least 124 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a riot and a stampede at an Indonesian football stadium.
The tragedy on Saturday night -one of the world’s deadliest sporting stadium disasters came as a result of the stampede and riot at Kanjuruhan Stadium in eastern city of Malang.
The incident happened after Arema FC fans stormed the pitch following their team lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday night.
Indonesian police say they tried to get fans to return to the stands and only fired tear gas to control the crowds after two officers were killed.
Dissapointed after their team’s loss, thousands of Arema supporters, known as “Aremania,” reacted by throwing bottles and other objects at players and football officials. Fans flooded the pitch in protest and demanded that Arema management explain why, after 23 years of undefeated home games, this match ended in a loss, witnesses said.
The rioting spread outside the stadium where at least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze amid the chaos. Riot police responded by firing tear gas, including towards the stadium’s stands, causing panic among the crowd. Tear gas is banned at football stadiums by FIFA.
Some fans suffocated and others were trampled as hundreds of people ran to the exit in an effort to avoid the tear gas. In the chaos, 34 died at the stadium, including two officers, and some reports include children among the casualties.
The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was a sell-out. Police said about 3,000 people had stormed the pitch. Vehicles outside the stadium were also torched, including at least five police cars and trucks.
“We have already done a preventive action before finally firing the tear gas as [fans] began to attack the police, acting anarchically and burning vehicles,” said East Java Police chief Nico Afinta in a news conference early on Sunday.
Afinta said the death toll is likely to increase because many of the approximately 180 injured who are receiving intensive treatments at various hospitals are in critical condition.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has ordered an investigation into the deadly stampede, a safety review into all football matches and directed the country’s football association to suspend all matches until “security improvements” were completed
Indonesia’s football association, PSSI, has also suspended the premier football league Liga 1 indefinitely in light of the tragedy and banned Arema from hosting football matches for the remainder of the season.