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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

12 dead in soccer stadium stampede in El Salvador

The scene after a deadly stampede at a soccer match on Saturday at Cuscatlán Stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador.

By Eduardo Medina

Twelve people died and about 90 others were injured in a stampede at a soccer stadium in El Salvador on Saturday, authorities said, turning a highly anticipated match into a chaotic scene as fans rushed to save people suffocating under a mass of bodies.

Videos circulating on Twitter and published by local news media sites showed dozens of people clad in white appearing to rush toward an exit at the stadium, with some lying on the ground as more pile on top.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the rush at Cuscatlán Stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador, where the first-league soccer teams, Alianza Fútbol Club and Club Deportivo FAS, were playing the second leg of a quarterfinal.

At a news conference Saturday night, the director of the national police in El Salvador said authorities were investigating a possible cause: The large number of people attending the game may have caused the stadium’s Wi-Fi to malfunction, which in turn could have led to a problem with scanning QR codes on tickets. That ticketing problem, he said, may have led to hundreds of people being stuck at the southern gate of the stadium, trying to get in.

The police director, Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, said that some fans had also forced their way into the stadium through the southern gate, where those who buy cheaper tickets typically enter.

He added that they would also investigate tickets sales for the game. Local news organizations have raised questions about whether too many tickets had been sold for the match.

Soccer matches around the world have for decades been the scenes of deadly stadium disasters, sometimes set off by crowd violence and often made worse by inept police responses that result in spectators being crushed as they try to flee. In Malang, Indonesia, in October, at least 125 people died, many of them trampled, after police fired tear gas in an effort to disperse crowds.

Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, said in a statement that “everyone will be investigated: teams, managers, stadium, ticket office, league, federation, etc.”

“Whoever the culprits are,” he said, “they will not go unpunished.”

The tumult appears to have started about 20 minutes into the game, when the teams remained tied.

On a livestream of the match posted on YouTube, game commentators said they could see some type of commotion in the stands, noting that some people appeared to have lost consciousness. Fans eventually stepped onto the field, and the game was suspended, the commentators said in the livestream.

Around 11 p.m. Eastern, authorities said that they were trying to make it easier to get ambulances in and out of the stadium.

The health minister of El Salvador, Francisco Alabi, said in a statement that the country’s hospitals were providing medical care to people injured in the episode, adding that workers were doing “everything humanly possible” to save their lives. He said of the about 90 people injured, most were stable.

Alabi shared photos on Twitter of the scene outside the stadium, with ambulances lined up in rows as fans stand beside the vehicles. Nine of the victims died at the stadium, and three died in hospitals, authorities said. Police did not immediately release their names.

A local radio station published video of fans waving their shirts near people on the ground in an effort to cool them off. Other photos showed people sweating and in tears.

The country’s soccer federation said in a statement on Twitter that it would “immediately request a report on what happened,” and that all games would be canceled Sunday.

The president of El Salvador’s national institute of sports, Yamil Bukele, said in a statement that he had called a meeting Sunday to look into what had occurred.

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