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The BBC's Jane Standley
"This is South Africa's worst sporting disaster"
 real 56k

The BBC's bureau chief in South Africa Milton Nkosi
"Unfortunately, I had to walk on top of some of the people to get away with my life"
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
Stadium disaster probe launched
Relatives mourn victims of the Ellis Park disaster
The disaster has deeply shocked South Africa
The South African government is promising a swift inquiry into the worst disaster in the country's sporting history, which saw 43 people crushed to death at a Johannesburg stadium.

A judicial commission will examine the events that led to the tragedy, in which about 250 others were injured, at the Ellis Park Stadium on Wednesday.


This incident should not divide us, but bring us even closer to ensure that this horror story does not repeat itself

Thabo Mbeki
South African President Thabo Mbeki said the aim was to make sure that such accidents could be avoided in future.

He said: "It is important that every element of this tragedy be looked at so that we can take all the necessary measures to make sure that we don't have this thing happening again."

Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour said: "I'm really hoping that within a very short space of time there will come a report from that judicial commission."

The government is concious that it must learn lessons from the tragedy quickly to avoid serious damage to South Africa's planned 2010 World Cup bid.

Overcrowding

Senior football officials have spoken of the need to introduce South African fans to a culture of buying tickets for matches in advance so that proper attendance assessments can be made.

Ellis Stadium
Tens of thousands were crammed into the stadium
South Africa has a history of poor organisation at its local league matches and scrums for tickets are commonplace as few are pre-sold.

Disaster struck when fans crowded into the ground for a local derby between the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates.

A capacity crowd of 60,000 was already inside the stadium when a further 30,000 fans were reportedly still trying to gain entry.

A goal sparked a further surge which led to the accident.

Scramble for seats

Part of the investigation is expected to look into reports that the stampede was triggered by untrained security outside the stadium firing tear gas into the crowds.


People were scratching to get the gates open and climbing over the gates

Security guard Petrus Saayman
South African police have denied this.

The crush reportedly started in the east wing of the stadium as fans scrambled for seats and spilled over into box suites.

The BBC's Milton Nkosi, who was at the ground, said the tragedy arose because there were simply too many people in the stadium.

He described scenes of "utter chaos" and said the emergency services appeared poorly equipped to cope with the situation.

Another eyewitness, Louis Shipalana, said: "There was no place to stand. The people were pushing toward the fence [around the pitch], and the fence collapsed and the people in the back stepped on those in front."

The game was halted after about 35 minutes, and club officials pleaded for calm.

There were reports that emergency vehicles were hindered by the football traffic outside the stadium.

Rivalry

The match between the two teams is usually one of the highlights of the South African football calendar, and attracts some of the largest crowds of the year.

The captain of the South Africa national team, Lucas Radebe, told the BBC that "football has grown since we were readmitted to international football, and when games like this come up everybody wants to go".

A similar tragedy occurred 10 years ago when the two teams met in a pre-season friendly at Orkney, a provincial town some 200km (125 miles) from Johannesburg.

Then 42 people, including two children, were killed in a stampede.

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