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Post-fireworks stampede kills 61

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 6:46 p.m.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — A crowd stampeded while leaving a New Year's fireworks show early Tuesday in Ivory Coast's main city, killing 61 — many of them children and teenagers — and injuring more than 200, rescue workers said.

Thousands had gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in the Plateau district to see the fireworks. It was only the second New Year's Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation since a bloody upheaval over presidential elections put the nation on the brink of civil war and turned the city into a battle zone.

With 2013 showing greater promise, people were in the mood to celebrate on New Year's Eve. Families brought childre,n and they watched the rockets burst in the nighttime sky. But only an hour into the new year, as the crowds poured onto the Boulevard de la Republic after the show, something caused a stampede, said Col. Issa Sako of the fire department rescue team. How so many deaths occurred on the broad boulevard and how the stampede started is likely to be the subject of an investigation.

Many of the younger ones in the crowd went down, trampled underfoot. Most of those killed were between 8 and 15 years old. “The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede, which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200,” Sako told Ivory Coast state TV.

It was not Ivory Coast's first stadium tragedy. In 2009, 22 people died, and more than 130 were injured in a stampede at a World Cup qualifying match at the Houphouet Boigny Stadium, prompting FIFA, soccer's global governing body, to impose a fine of tens of thousands of dollars on Ivory Coast's soccer federation. The stadium, which oholds 35,000, was overcrowded at the time.

A year later, two people were killed and 30 wounded in a stampede at a municipal stadium during a reggae concert in Bouake, the country's second-largest city.

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