Fans angry at being blocked from entering a Salvadoran football league match knocked down an entrance gate to the stadium, leading to a crush that left at least 12 people dead and dozens injured, officials and witnesses have said.
The stampede took place late on Saturday during a quarter-final match between clubs Alianza and Fas at Monumental Stadium in Cuscatlan in southern San Salvador, the nation’s capital.
“The game was scheduled to start at 7.30pm but they closed the gate at 7pm and left us outside (the stadium) with our tickets in our hands,” said Alianza fan Jose Angel Penado.
“People got angry. We asked them to let us in, but no. So they knocked the gate down.”
“El Salvador is in mourning,” said a statement from the press office of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, which confirmed that at least 12 people had died.
Civil Protection director Luis Amaya said about 500 people had been attended and about 100 were taken to hospital.
At least two of the injured transported to hospital were in a critical condition.
Play was suspended about 16 minutes into the match, when fans in the stands waving frantically began getting the attention of those on the field and carrying the injured out of a tunnel and down to the pitch.
Local television transmitted live images of the aftermath of the stampede by Alianza fans.
Dozens made it on to the field where they received medical treatment.
Pedro Hernandez, president of El Salvador football’s first division, said the preliminary information he had was that the stampede occurred because fans managed to push through a gate into the stadium.
“It was an avalanche of fans who overran the gate. Some were still under the metal in the tunnel. Others managed to make it to the stands and then to the field and were smothered,” an unidentified volunteer with the Rescue Commandos first aid group told journalists.
National Civil Police Commissioner Mauricio Arriza Chicas, at the scene of the tragedy, said there would be a criminal investigation in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office.
“We are going to investigate from the ticket sales, the entries into the stadium, but especially the southern zone,” where, he said, the gate was pushed open.
The Salvadoran Soccer Federation said in a statement that it regretted what had happened and voiced support for the victims’ families.