At least 129 people died at a football stadium in Indonesia when thousands of fans invaded the pitch and police fired tear gas that triggered a stampede, authorities said on Sunday, October 2.
The tragedy on Saturday night in the eastern city of Malang, which also left 180 injured, was one of the world’s deadliest sporting stadium disasters.
Arema FC supporters at the Kanjuruhan stadium stormed the pitch late on Saturday after their team lost 3-2 to the visiting team and bitter rivals, Persebaya Surabaya.
Police, who described the unrest as “riots,” said they tried to persuade fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas after two officers were killed.
Many of the victims were trampled or choked to death, according to police.
East Java police chief Nico Afinta said a total of 127 people had died, but the toll was later raised to 129.
A hospital director told local TV that one of the victims was five years old.
Images taken from inside the stadium during the stampede showed police firing huge amounts of tear gas and people clambering over fences.
People were carrying injured spectators through the chaos.
Video footage circulating on social media showed people shouting obscenities at police, who were holding riot shields and wielding batons.
The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was a sell-out, Police said 3,000 people stormed the pitch.
“We would like to convey that… not all of them were anarchic. Only about 3,000 who entered the pitch,” Afinta said.
Torched vehicles, including a police truck, littered the streets outside the stadium on Sunday morning. Police said 13 vehicles in total were damaged.
The Indonesian government apologized for the incident and promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding the stampede.
“This is a regrettable incident that ‘injures’ our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium,” Indonesian Sports and Youth Minister Zainudin Amali told broadcaster Kompas.
“We will thoroughly evaluate the organization of the match and the attendance of supporters. Will we return to banning supporters from attending the matches? That is what we will discuss.”
East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said the provincial government will give 10 million rupiah (US$650) in compensation to the families of the victims and the local regency will give five million rupiah.
“This is part of our empathy to the families of the victims,” she said.
Fan violence is an enduring problem in Indonesia, where deep rivalries have previously turned into deadly confrontations.
Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals.
Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for the game due to fears of violence.
However Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organizers ignored the recommendation of authorities to hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening.
And he said the government had recommended only 38,000 tickets be printed, but there was instead a sell-out crowd of 42,000.
“The government has made improvements to the implementation of football matches… and will continue to improve. But this sport, which is a favorite of the wider community, often provokes supporters to express emotions suddenly,” he said in an Instagram post.
The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) suspended football matches of Indonesia’s top league, BRI Liga 1, for one week.
It also banned Arema FC from hosting home games for the rest of the season and said it would send an investigation team to Malang to establish the cause of the crush.
“We’re sorry and apologize to families of the victims and all parties over the incident,” PSSI chairman Mochamad Iriawan said.
Indonesia is to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May at six stadiums across the country. The Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang is not included in that list.
Other stadium disasters include a 1989 crush in the stands at Britain’s Hillsborough Stadium, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans, and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt where 74 people died in clashes.
In 1964, 320 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during a stampede at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at Lima’s National Stadium.