KAMPALA, UGANDA: More details have emerged on the crowd surge incident at Freedom City Mall in Kampala that left at least nine people killed and several others injured during new year festivities.
According to deputy Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson ASP Luke Owoyesigyire, “It is alleged that the incident occurred at midnight when the event’s MC encouraged attendees to go outside and watch the fireworks display.”
Owoyesigyire says after the display ended, a stampede ensued-resulting in the instant deaths of five people, and other four were pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital for first aid by emergency responders, while several are still nursing injuries sustained in the crowd rush.
“Most of the dead were juveniles, ages 10, 11, 14 and 20. There are several injured and our team of investigators are following up to get the exact number,” he added, adding that “rash” acts and “negligence” led to the tragedy.
According to police, nine of the fatalities confirmed included mostly juveniles (5) leaving a question mark on the event organisers allowing in kids in such night events.
One of the survivors, businesswoman Sylvia Nakalema, says the stampede began “when we went to view the fireworks on the platform and while returning downstairs”.
“There was a huge crowd. People began pushing each other for space leading some to fall and the stampede ensued,” she said.
“Children were crying and there was chaos. I survived because I was pushed in a corner by the crowd,” said the 27-year-old.
“I felt losing breath but I stayed put since I had no exit until the situation calmed down but some people were already lying down gasping for breath.”
Millions of Ugandans on Saturday, December 31, 2022, joined the rest of the world to welcome 2023 with festivities for the first time in over two years of Covid-19 curbs.
Across the capital of Kampala and countrywide, bars were packed to full capacity while several churches also held trans-night prayers on new year’s eve.
Police authorities have since the Freedom City Mall incident cautioned against recklessness during the New Year festivities and said investigations are already underway to establish the cause of the stampede and how to avoid the same from happening in the future.
In 2009, one person died and three were injured in a stampede at Kampala’s Kansanga amusement park.
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