By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
At least nine people died, most aged between 10 and 20, in a shopping mall crush as revellers rang in the New Year in Uganda’s capital, police said on Sunday.
After fireworks outside the Freedom City mall in Kampala, “a stampede ensued, resulting in the instant deaths of five people and injuries to several others,” national police spokesman Luke Owoyesigyire said.
Four others died on their way to hospital “largely due to suffocation”.
“Emergency responders arrived on the scene and transported the injured individuals to the hospital, where nine were confirmed dead,” said Owoyesigyire.
“Rash” acts and “negligence” led to the tragedy, he added.
The celebrations to welcome in 2023 were the first in the east African country in three years, after restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and security issues.
“Most of the dead were juveniles, ages 10, 11 14 and 20,” Kampala police spokesman Patrick Onyango told The Homeland Newspaper.
“There are several injured and our team of investigators are following up to get the exact number.”
One of the survivors, businesswoman Sylvia Nakalema, said the stampede started “when we went to view the fireworks on the platform and while returning downstairs”.
“There was a huge crowd. People begun pushing each other for space leading some to fall and the stampede ensued,” she said.
“Children were crying and there was chaos.
“I survived because I was pushed in a corner by the crowd,” said the 27-year-old.
“I felt losing breath but I stayed put since I had no exit until the situation calmed down but some people were already lying down gasping for breath.”
In 2009, one person died and three were injured in a stampede at Kampala’s Kansanga amusement park.