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Stampede, riot at soccer game in Indonesia, 174 dead, league suspended

Stampede, riot at soccer game in Indonesia, 174 dead, league suspended
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  • The stadium disaster in East Java appears to be the worst since 1964
  • Around 180 injured in mass onslaught
  • The Indonesian Football Association suspends the league for investigation
  • Police say they fired tear gas to keep the crowd under control

MALANG, Indonesia, Oct. 2 (Reuters) – At least 174 people were killed and 180 injured in a stampede and riot at a soccer game in Indonesia, officials said on Sunday in one of the worst in the world stadium disasters.

When frustrated supporters of the losing home team stormed the pitch in Malang, East Java province late on Saturday, officials fired tear gas to try to control the situation, sparking stampedes and choking incidents, the East Java police chief said. Nico Afinta reporter.

“It had become anarchic. They started attacking officers, they damaged cars,” Nico said, adding that the rush happened as fans fled to an exit gate.

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Video footage from local news channels showed fans pour onto the field after Arema FC lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya at around 10pm (1500GMT). Scuffles can be seen, with what appeared to be tear gas in the air.

Images showed people who appeared to have lost consciousness and were being carried away by fellow fans.

The head of one of the area’s hospitals that treats patients told Metro TV that some of the victims suffered brain injuries and that a five-year-old child was among the fatalities.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said authorities needed to thoroughly examine security at matches, adding he hoped this would be “the last football tragedy in the nation”.

Jokowi, as the president is known, has ordered the Indonesian Football Association to suspend all matches in Indonesia’s top division BRI Liga 1 pending the completion of an investigation.

TEAR GAS RULES, OVERCAPACITIES

The World Football Association FIFA specifies in its safety regulations that no firearms or “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police officers.

East Java Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they were aware of such regulations.

FIFA has requested a report on the incident from the Indonesian PSSI Football Association, and a PSSI team has been sent to Malang to investigate, PSSI Secretary General Yunus Nusi told reporters.

Indonesia’s human rights commission also plans to probe security on the ground, including the use of tear gas, its commissioner told Reuters.

“Many of our friends lost their lives because officials dehumanized us,” 22-year-old Muhammad Rian Dwicahyono said tearfully while tending a broken arm at Kanjuruhan local hospital. “Many lives were wasted.”

Mourners gathered outside the stadium gates on Sunday to lay flowers for the victims.

Amnesty International Indonesia criticized the security measures, saying that “the use of excessive force by the state … to contain or control such crowds cannot be justified at all”.

The country’s top security minister, Mahfud MD, said in an Instagram post that the stadium was filled beyond its capacity. He said 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium designed to only hold 38,000 people.

Many victims at Kanjuruhan Hospital suffered from trauma, shortness of breath and lack of oxygen due to the large number of people at the scene affected by tear gas, paramedic Boby Prabowo said.

WORST IN HALF A CENTURY

Financial aid will be provided to the injured and families of the victims, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa told reporters.

Problems have arisen at matches in Indonesia before, with fierce rivalries between clubs sometimes leading to violence among fans.

Indonesia’s football scene was plagued by hooliganismstubborn policing and mismanagement that largely prevent the country of 275 million people filling stadiums from fulfilling its potential in sport.

Zainudin Amali, Indonesia’s sports minister, told KompasTV the ministry will reassess security at football matches, including considering not allowing spectators into stadiums.

The Malang stadium disaster appeared to be the deadliest since 1964, when 328 people died in a riot and crush when Peru hosted Argentina at the Estadio Nacional.

In a notorious 1989 British disaster, 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death when an overcrowded and fenced-off corral collapsed at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.

Indonesia is set to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to host next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the European Championship, after China withdrew as hosts.

The head of Asian Football AssociationShaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said in a statement that he was “deeply shocked and saddened to hear such tragic news from football-mad Indonesia,” and expressed condolences to the victims, their families and friends.

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Reporting by Yuddy Cahya Budiman and Prasto Wardoyo in Malang, Stefanno Sulaiman and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta and Tommy Lund in Gdansk; writing by Kate Lamb; Edited by Ed Davies, William Mallard and Kim Coghill

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