ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — At least 61 people were killed early Tuesday in a stampede following a New Year's fireworks display in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial center, said officials.
The death toll is expected to rise, according to rescue workers.
The majority of those killed were young people between eight and 15 years old who were trampled after the fireworks festivities in Abidjan's Plateau district, at about 1 a.m. Tuesday, said Col. Issa Sako, of the fire department rescue team.
Thousands gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium to see the fireworks and after the display the crowds moved out onto the Boulevard de la Republic by the Hotel Tiama, said Sako, on Ivory Coast state television.
"The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200," said Sako.
President Alassane Ouattara has visited some of the wounded in hospital and he pledged that his government would pay for the costs of their medical treatment, according to the president's office.
Ouattara's government organized the fireworks to celebrate Ivory Coast's peace, after several months of political violence in early 2011 following disputed elections. It was the second year that Abidjan had a New Year's fireworks display.
Desperate parents went to the city morgue, the hospital and to the stadium to try to find children who are still missing.
Mamadou Sanogo was searching for his nine-year-old son, Sayed.
"I have just seen all the bodies, but I cannot find my son," said a tearful Sanogo. "I don't know what to do."