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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 23:55 GMT
Seven die in Sofia disco tragedy
Grieving teenager flanked by police outside the nightclub in Sofia, Bulgaria
Most of those who died were under 15
At least seven teenagers have been killed in a stampede at a disco in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

All those who died suffocated, according to hospital officials quoted by French news agency AFP.

The melee occurred as hundreds of children skidded on an icy staircase of the discotheque

Police spokeswoman Stefka Ivanopva
Bulgarian police spokeswoman Stefka Ivanopva said the stampede occurred as teenagers tried to get into the town centre disco on Friday night.

She told the Associated Press news agency that initial reports of a stairway collapsing were false.

"The melee occurred as hundreds of children skidded on an icy staircase of the discotheque," she said.

Security checked

Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said that one person died at the scene and the others later in hospital.

A woman searches for her child in one of Sofia's hospitals
Most of the victims died in hospital
Most of those who died were under 15.

Speaking on state television, Mr Petkanov said that officials investigating the case did not initially believe the disco's owners to be at fault.

More than 1,500 teenagers were trying to enter the Indigo disco club - a former ice rink - when the accident happened, Bulgarian state radio reported.

Police said they would be checking security at all of Sofia's nightclubs.

Freezing conditions

Eyewitness Anton Popov, who was waiting to enter the club, told Reuters news agency that the disco was holding a Christmas party when the accident happened.

"I was on the staircase when I heard screams from inside and I first thought that people were having fun," he said.

Poor weather conditions over the past few days have put temperatures well below freezing.

Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Cobourg visited victims at one of the hospitals, as did outgoing President Petar Stoyanov and President-elect Georgi Parvanov.

Mr Parvanov said that a national day of mourning would be held on the day of the victims' funerals.

"Conditions in the disco were primitive and this incident should have been foreseen," he told AFP.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
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