At least 174 people have been killed and dozens injured in a riot and stampede at an Indonesian football stadium.
Saturday night’s tragedy in the eastern city of Malang was one of the world’s deadliest sports stadium disasters.
Police in East Java province say thousands of FC Arema fans stormed the pitch at Kanjuruhan Stadium after their team lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya. Officers attempted to control the “riots” by firing tear gas, triggering a stampede as panicked fans rushed for an exit door.
Some suffocated in the chaos while others were trampled to death. Some 34 people died at the scene.
East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak told Kompas TV in an interview on Sunday afternoon that the death toll had risen to 174, while more than 100 injured were receiving intensive care at eight hospitals. Eleven of them were in critical condition, he said.
“At 9.30 a.m. (02.30 GMT) the death toll was 158, by 10.30 a.m. the figure had risen to 174 dead,” Dardak said.
A hospital director told local television that one of the victims was five years old.
Video footage from local news channels showed fans streaming onto the pitch at Kanjurujan Stadium in Malang after Arema FC’s loss to Persebaya Surabaya. Scuffles can be seen, with what appeared to be tear gas in the air. Footage also showed people who appeared to have passed out being carried away by other fans.
The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was a sold-out sale. Police said around 3,000 people stormed the grounds. Vehicles outside the stadium were also set on fire, including at least five police vehicles.
Survivors described panicked onlookers in a packed crowd as tear gas rained down on them.
“The officers fired tear gas, and automatically people rushed out, jostling each other and that caused many casualties,” a 43-year-old bystander told AFP news agency. “Nothing was happening, there was no riot. I don’t know what the problem was, they suddenly fired tear gas. That’s what shocked me, didn’t they think of the children, of the women?
President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into the tragedy, a security review of all football matches and ordered the country’s football association to suspend all matches until “security improvements ” are completed.
“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this football tragedy will be the last in our country,” Widodo said.
Fan violence is a persistent problem in Indonesia, with strong club rivalry sometimes leading to fan violence. Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are long-time rivals and fans of the latter were not allowed to buy tickets for Saturday’s game for fear of violence.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said organizers ignored authorities’ recommendation to hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening. He also said the government had recommended that only 38,000 tickets be printed, but instead there were 42,000 sold-out spectators. “The government has made improvements in the implementation of football matches…and will continue to improve. But the sport, which is a favorite of the wider community, often causes fans to express emotions suddenly,” he said in an Instagram post.
World football’s governing body, FIFA, specifies in its safety rules that no firearms or “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police. East Java police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they were aware of these regulations.
Referring to FIFA rules, Amnesty International criticized the use of tear gas in the stadium and urged the authorities to “carry out a prompt, thorough and independent investigation” and to “ensure that those found guilty of offenses are judged in open court and are not satisfied with receiving internal or administrative sanctions”.
“This loss of life cannot go unaddressed,” said Usman Hamid, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia.
The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) said it would send its own investigation team to Malang to establish the cause of the crash. He also banned Arema FC from hosting home games for the rest of the season.
“We are sorry and apologize to the families of the victims and all parties involved in this incident,” said PSSI President Mochamad Iriawan.
The tragedy comes as Indonesia are due to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to host next year’s Asian Cup, the continental equivalent of the Euros, after China pulled out as hosts.
Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, said Saturday’s disaster was “historic”.
“Violence and riots are commonplace at football matches in Indonesia, but we’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said.
“It’s a historic tragedy, not only for football in Indonesia but also for international football. It’s one of the biggest tragedies the sport has ever seen, in terms of fan violence, in terms of the deaths of supporters during a match,” she added.
Other stadium disasters include a 1964 crash during a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifying match at Lima’s National Stadium that killed some 320 people, and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt, where 74 people died in clashes.
In 1989, some 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in the UK, when an overcrowded, fenced-off enclosure collapsed at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.