Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, March 30 – Tanzanian police announced Tuesday that 45 people had died during a stampede in Dar es Salaam on March 21 as mourners paid their last respects to the late president John Magufuli.
“There were a lot of people who wanted to get in the stadium, and some were not patient. They tried to force their way in and that resulted in a stampede. Forty-five died in the accident,” Dar es Salaam regional police commander Lazaro Mambosasa told AFP.
Five of the deceased were from the same family, Mambosasa said. A woman and four children were earlier reported crushed in the accident at Uhuru Stadium, though the true toll of the stampede was not announced at the time.
Mambosasa said several dozen were also injured in the crush but most had been released from hospital.
Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of Dar es Salaam this month to bid farewell to Magufuli, whose sudden death from a short mysterious illness was announced by the government on March 17.
People wept and threw flower petals as his casket was transferred by military motorcade from a church to Uhuru Stadium, the first of several locations where his body lay in state so mourners could pay their respects.
Samia Suluhu Hassan, who was sworn in as the country’s first female president upon Magufuli’s death, was the first to file past his coffin, which was draped in the Tanzanian flag.
The stampede happened on the second day of tributes at Uhuru Stadium.
Magufuli’s body lay in state in the cities of Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Zanzibar, Mwanza and Geita, before being finally laid to rest in his ancestral village of Chato, in the country’s northwest, on March 26.
Magufuli died aged 61 from what authorities say was a heart condition, after a mysterious absence of almost three weeks, and questions remain over the true cause of his death which the opposition says was from Covid-19.
His unexplained absence fuelled speculation that the famously Covid-sceptic leader was being treated for coronavirus abroad.
Magufuli was hailed for his fight against corruption and massive infrastructure projects, but criticised for the stifling of democracy and crackdowns on the media, civil society and the opposition.
His legacy is also marred by his Covid denialism, which saw Tanzania refuse to issue data or take any measures to curb the spread of the virus.