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A troop stands next to the belongings of people involved in a deadly stampede in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. At least 61 people were killed in the stampede, which took place after a New Year's fireworks display.
Emanuel Ekra/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/2/2013
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast--A crowd stampeded after leaving a New Year's fireworks show early Tuesday in Ivory Coast's main city, killing 61 people--many of them children and teenagers--and injuring more than 200, rescue workers said.
Thousands had gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan's Plateau district to see the fireworks. It was only the second New Year's Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation after a bloody upheaval over presidential elections put the nation on the brink of civil war and turned this city into a battle zone in 2011.
With 2013 showing greater promise, people were in the mood to celebrate on New Year's Eve. Families brought children and they watched the rockets burst in the nighttime sky. But only an hour into the new year, as the crowds poured onto the Boulevard de la Republic after the show, something caused a stampede, said Col. Issa Sako of the fire department rescue team. How so many deaths occurred on the broad boulevard and how the tragedy started is likely to be the subject of an investigation.
Many of the younger ones in the crowd went down, trampled underfoot. Most of those killed were between 8 and 15 years old.
"The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede, which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200," Sako told Ivory Coast state TV.
Desperate parents went to the city morgue, the hospital and the stadium to try to find missing children. Mamadou Sanogo was searching for his 9-year-old son, Sayed.
"I have just seen all the bodies, but I cannot find my son," said a tearful Sanogo. "I don't know what to do."
The death toll could rise, officials said.
After the sun came up, soldiers were patrolling the site that was littered with victims' clothes, shoes, torn sandals and other belongings. President Alassane Ouattara and his wife visited some of the injured in the hospital. Mrs. Ouattara leaned over one child who was on a bed in a crowded hospital ward and tried to console the youngster. The president pledged that the government would pay for their treatment, his office said.
The government organized the fireworks to celebrate Ivory Coast's peace, after several months of political violence in early 2011 following disputed elections.