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New Year's tragedy: Dozens killed in stampede after Ivory Coast fireworks

Herve Sevi / AFP - Getty Images

A soldier stands guard at the site of a stampede in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Tuesday where at least 60 people died and dozens were injured during a celebratory New Year's fireworks display.

At least 61 people – some of them children – were trampled to death Tuesday when a stampede erupted after a New Year’s fireworks show at an Ivory Coast arena, officials said.

The cause of the crush, which sent dozens of injured revelers to the hospital, was unclear. The official AIP news agency said the death toll included “many” young people.

Shoes and clothes abandoned in the pandemonium were strewn outside the stadium, and local television showed images of bodies on the ground, Agence France Presse reported.

Panicked parents were searching for missing youngsters.

"My two children came here yesterday. I told them not to come but they didn't listen. They came when I was sleeping. What will I do?" Assetou Toure, a cleaner, told Reuters.

One man looked for his 9-year-old at the morgue.

“I just saw all the bodies, but I cannot find my son. I do not know what to do,” he sobbed, according to AIP.

Another mother said she barely escaped the chaos alive.

"I don't know what happened but I found myself lying on the ground with people stepping on me, pulling my hair or tearing my clothes," she told AFP.

She said she was knocked unconscious and pulled from the crowd by a good Samaritan. She had taken two of her kids to the show and found one of them in the hospital.

Officials said the fireworks show at Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium had gone smoothly, but something went awry as people flooded through the gate to get home.

"In the crush, people were walked over and suffocated by the crowd,” Lt. Col. Issa Sako told reporters, according to AFP.

In addition to the deaths, 49 people were rushed to hospitals with broken bones and head injuries, and an unknown number of others sought medical assistance on their own.

The fireworks show at the stadium – where R&B singer Chris Brown had performed the night before – was meant to celebrate a period of relative calm in Ivory Coast after bloody civil strife in 2011.

President Alassane Ouattara called the stampede a national tragedy, visited some of the injured at the hospital and began making plans for a day of mourning.

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