JAKARTA, Indonesia, November 22 – Two people were killed and a young boy was fighting for his life in a coma after a terrifying stampede when thousands of fans jammed a Jakarta stadium for the Southeast Asian Games football final.
All 88,000 tickets at the cavernous Gelora Bung Karno stadium had been snapped up for the keenly anticipated showdown Monday night between the hosts and their rivals Malaysia, the visitors taking gold 4-3 on penalties.
With the game sold out, thousands of eager supporters gathered outside the stadium hoping to buy from ticket touts, an AFP reporter at the scene said, and when a gate was momentarily opened there was a crush to get in.
“The two victims died when the stadium doors at section 15 opened and everyone rushed in,” Jakarta city police spokesman Baharudin Djafar told AFP.
“One of the bodies was identified and has been returned to his family, while the other is still at the morgue.
“Several others were taken to hospital with minor injuries, but one young boy slipped into a coma.”
In the chaos, the bodies of the two men trampled to death — both thought to be Indonesian fans — could not be immediately evacuated, police said.
“When we found the victims, they were already dead,” paramedic Abdul Majid told the Detik.com news portal outside the stadium.
Ambulances sat parked for an hour with the bodies.
One of the dead was identified by his cousin as 21-year-old Reno Alvino.
“As we were entering the stadium, the crowd of people pushed each other to make their way forward,” Helmi Gemael, the victim’s cousin, told AFP.
He said that Alvino “was pushed away from me and we were separated. I then heard that some people had fallen and that people had died.”
Gemael added that he “rushed to check” and found his cousin dead.
Hundreds of people had been packed tight against the ticket barriers while fans inside the stadium were forced to crouch in aisles and walkways, witnesses said.
The tragedy followed complaints over poor organisation at the multi-sport Southeast Asian Games and there had been calls for calm ahead of the flashpoint football final between arch-rivals Indonesia and Malaysia.
“We are saddened by the deaths and it is unfortunate that the game has come to such a point that hooligans and vandals now are spoiling what should be an enjoyable pastime,” the Malaysian football association’s secretary-general Azzuddin Ahmad said.
Earlier on Monday, fans had gone on the rampage after the stadium was declared sold out. They burned down a ticket booth and besieged the media centre before they were chased away by riot police.
Malaysia had requested armoured vehicles to escort their players to and from the central Jakarta venue after their bus was surrounded and kicked by hostile fans before their semi-final.
Head of Games’ organisers Inasoc, Rita Subowo, had called before the match for Indonesian fans to behave.
“Fair play has to be there and we don’t want people to come who are set on causing problems. We have the security in place but sadly there are sometimes people who go over the top and we can’t control that,” he had said.
The chef de mission of Myanmar, which will host the next SEA Games in 2013, has criticised organisational standards and said conditions at the opening ceremony in Palembang were also “not safe”.
“There were no ushers. The VIP and public entrances at the main stadium in Palembang were the same. It was very confusing after the opening ceremony and not safe,” Naw Tawng told Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper.
The run-up to the event, split between Jakarta and the South Sumatra city of Palembang, had been plagued by concerns over unfinished venues and a lack of accommodation and transport.