Panic at an Indonesian soccer match after police fired tear gas to stop brawls left 129 dead, mostly trampled to death, police said Sunday.
Several fights between supporters of the two rival soccer teams were reported inside the Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java province’s Malang city after the Indonesian Premier League game ended with Persebaya Surabaya beating Arema Malang 3-2.
The brawls that broke out just after the game ended late night Saturday prompted riot police to fire tear gas, which caused panic among supporters, said East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta.
Hundreds of people ran to an exit gate in an effort to avoid the tear gas. Some suffocated in the chaos and others were trampled, killing 34 almost instantly.
More than 300 were rushed to nearby hospitals to treat injuries but many died on the way and during treatment, Afinta said.
He said the death toll is likely still increasing, since many of about 180 injured victims’ conditions were deteriorating.
The Indonesian top league, BRI Liga 1, has suspended games for a week following the match, and an investigation had been launched, the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) said.
There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with a strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.
Among global stadium disasters, 97 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in Britain in April 1989, when an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.
Indonesia is to host the FIFA under-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to stage next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the Euros, after China pulled out as hosts.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.