Conakry (AFP) - Police in Guinea launched an investigation Wednesday into a stampede at a seafront rap concert that left 33 people dead including 11 children in scenes of mass panic.
Authorities said the victims had been trampled underfoot on Rogbane beach as thousands surged to the exits after rap group "Instinct Killers" performed to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Tuesday.
"There was a stampede to get out of the concert, it was after the show that it all happened. The crowd wanted to get out but there was a rope that blocked the way," a police source told AFP.
"People at the back began pushing and people fell, creating a mass panic."
Authorities announced the closure of all beaches in the country in the wake of the disaster.
Medical sources told AFP that 33 deaths had been registered at the city's main emergency unit, with 11 of the victims aged between 10 and 17.
A further 58 people received treatment for minor injuries, the hospital said, indicating that several other injured had been treated elsewhere.
Another police source told AFP the concert, staged on a beach in a northern suburb of the capital, had been overseen by a small security team of under-trained guards.
"The exit was about three metres (wide) and thousands of people and vehicles were trying to get out at the same time," the source said.
Crowds of women gathered to wail in grief in the courtyard of a mosque opposite the city's Donka hospital, where dead family members lay, as the full extent of the tragedy became clear.
El-Hadj Abdoulaye Barry, who lost a daughter, told AFP he began to worry when his three children had not returned home by nightfall.
"I assumed they were delayed by traffic and didn't call. When the television broke the news I jumped out of bed and began worrying about my children.
"Half an hour later, two of them returned in tears. I asked the eldest, who is 17, 'where is your sister?' He told me 'there was a stampede on the beach and people were killed, but I have not seen my sister'.
"I went out looking for her and I found her body here at the hospital at 3:00 am."
- Tourism hit by Ebola -
The office of President Alpha Conde convened an emergency cabinet meeting, announcing that the head of Guinea's public events agency had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
"All beaches Conakry are closed until further notice," said a government statement read out on national television.
Conakry, which sits on the tip of a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, boasts miles of coastline as well as the nearby Iles de Los, which are popular with expat beach-goers.
Tourism has been hit by years of civil unrest, however, and the country of 10 million is struggling to cope with an Ebola epidemic which has left more than 300 Guineans dead since the start of the year.
Two people were killed when fans stampeded at a concert given in Guinea by popular local musician Sekouba "Fatako" Kouyate in 2001, and similar tragedies have marred musical events around the world.
A stampede at a world music festival in Rabat in May 2009 left at least 11 people dead and some 40 others injured.
Ten people, mostly teenagers, were killed and dozens injured in a stampede at a packed music concert in Indonesia's Central Java province in December 2006.
Two years earlier, in February 2004, four people died and dozens were injured in a rock concert stampede in the country's South Kalimantan province.
In October 2005, 11 people were crushed to death and around 60 injured in South Korea in a stampede before a pop concert in the southern city of Sangju.
And in one of the deadliest such incidents on record, in May 1999, 52 people, mostly young women, were trampled to death after a rock concert in Belarus.