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Ivory Coast stampede survivors blame makeshift barriers across boulevard

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 9:52 p.m.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Survivors of a stampede in Ivory Coast that killed 61 people, most of them children and teenagers, after a New Year's Eve fireworks display said on Wednesday that makeshift barricades stopped them from moving along a main boulevard, causing the crush of people.

Ivory Coast police said unknown people put tree trunks across the Boulevard de la Republique where the trampling took place.

“For security, because there were so many important people at the event, we closed certain main streets,” said a police officer who was overheard briefing Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtara on the stampede.

The officer said the tree trunks were placed unofficially by unidentified people.

“After the fireworks we reopened the other streets, but we had not yet removed the tree trunks from the Boulevard de la Republique, in front of the Hotel Tiana near the National Assembly (parliament) building,” she said. “That is where the stampede happened when people flooded in from the other streets.”

Ouattara ordered three days of national mourning and started an investigation into the causes of the tragedy.

Two survivors indicated why so many died in what would normally be an open area, the Boulevard de la Republique.

An estimated 50,000 people had gathered near Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium and elsewhere in Abidjan's Plateau district to watch the fireworks. As they streamed away from the show, some encountered the blockades.

“Near the Justice Palace we were stopped by some people who put blockades of wood in the street,” Zoure Sanate, 33, said from her bed in Cocody Hospital. “They told us we must stay in the Plateau area until morning.”

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