Twelve people died and about 90 others were injured in a stampede at a soccer stadium in El Salvador on Saturday, authorities said, turning a highly anticipated game into a chaotic scene as fans rushed to save people choking under a mass of bodies.
Videos circulated on Twitter and published by local news sites showed dozens of white-clad people appearing to be rushing toward an exit from the stadium, some lying on the ground in a heap on top.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the crowds at the Cuscatlán stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador, where the first-class football teams, Alianza Fútbol Club and Club Deportivo FAS, played the second leg of a quarter-final.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday night, El Salvador’s director of national police said authorities were investigating a possible cause: the large number of people attending the game may have caused the stadium’s Wi-Fi to malfunction, which in turn led to a problem scanning QR codes on tickets. That ticketing problem, he said, may have resulted in hundreds of people being trapped at the south gate of the stadium as they tried to enter.
The police director, Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, said some fans had also entered the stadium through the south gate, where those who buy cheaper tickets usually enter.
He added that they would also investigate ticket sales for the match. Local news organizations have raised questions about whether too many tickets have been sold for the game.
Football matches around the world have been the scene of deadly stadium disasters for decades, sometimes caused by crowd violence and often exacerbated by inept police actions that result in spectators being crushed as they try to flee. In Malang, Indonesia, at least 125 people died last October, many of them trampled, after police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele said in a statement that “everyone will be investigated: teams, managers, stadium, box office, league, federation, etc.”
“Whoever the guilty are,” he said, “they will not go unpunished.”
The ruckus seems to have started about 20 minutes into the game, when the teams remained tied.
On a live stream of the match posted to YouTube, match commentators said they could see some sort of commotion in the stands, noting that some people appeared to have lost consciousness. Fans eventually stepped onto the pitch and the game was suspended, commentators on the live stream said.
Around 11 p.m. Eastern, authorities said that they were trying to make it easier to get ambulances in and out of the stadium.
El Salvador’s health minister Francisco Alabi said in a statement that the country’s hospitals were providing medical care to people injured during the episode, adding that workers “did everything humanly possible” to save their lives. to rescue. He said that of the approximately 90 injured, most were stable.
Mr. Alabi shared photos Twitter of the scene outside the stadium, with ambulances lined up while fans stand next to the vehicles. Nine of the victims died in the stadium and three died in hospitals, authorities said. Police did not immediately release their names.
a local radio station published video of fans waving their shirts near people on the ground in an attempt to cool them off. Other photos showed people sweating and in tears.
The country’s football association reports this in a rack on Twitter that it would “immediately request a report on what happened”, and that all games would be canceled on Sunday.
El Salvador’s national sports institute president Yamil Bukele said in a statement that he had called a meeting on Sunday to see what had happened.