(AFP) – At least 32 children died in Indonesia’s stadium disaster, an official said Monday, as the government ordered police to identify the “perpetrators” of one of the deadliest disasters in football history.
The tragedy on Saturday night in the city of Malang saw a total of 125 people killed and 323 others injured after officers fired tear gas in a packed stadium to quell a pitch invasion, triggering a stampede.
Dozens of children caught in the chaos lost their lives, an official at the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry told AFP on Monday.
“From the latest data we received, out of 125 people who died in the accident, 32 of them were children, with the youngest being a toddler age three or four,” said Nahar, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name.
As anger mounted against police, Indonesia’s chief security minister Mahfud MD announced that a task force had been formed for an investigation.
“We ask the national police to find the perpetrators who have committed crimes in the next few days,” he said in a broadcast statement.
“We asked them to… take action against them and we also hope the national police will evaluate their security procedures.”
– ‘We want accountability’ –
The tragedy unfolded when fans of home team Arema FC stormed the pitch at the Kanjuruhan stadium after their loss 3-2 to bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya.
Police responded by launching tear gas into packed terraces, prompting spectators to rush en masse to small gates where many were trampled or suffocated, according to witnesses.
“It felt like people were packed into a small tube with a tiny hole, and then they were smoked,” said 29-year-old spectator Ahmad Rizal Habibi, who escaped before the crush.
Police described the incident as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accuse them of overreacting and causing the deaths of scores of spectators.
“One of our messages is for the authorities to investigate this thoroughly. And we want accountability. Who is to blame?” said 25-year-old Malang resident Andika, who declined to give his last name.
“We want justice for our fallen supporters.”
One witness outside the stadium said police refused to help when the crush happened.