Seven children and one adult were killed in a stampede at Malawi’s national stadium on Thursday as large crowds gathered for independence day celebrations, police said.
The stampede occurred when gates were opened at the 40,000-seat Bingu stadium in the capital Lilongwe for a presidential address and football match to mark the annual holiday.
“Eight people — seven children aged around eight years old, and one adult died,” national police spokesman James Kadadzera told AFP.
He said 62 people had been injured and were receiving treatment at Lilongwe’s main hospital.
“My government will do all it can to assist the bereaved families,” President Peter Mutharika said at an independence day prayer meeting.
“We are mourning with you.”
Mutharika cancelled his traditional independence day speech and skipped the football match.
He instead visited the injured in hospital and consoled families that were collecting their dead relatives from the morgue, presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani told AFP.
Kalilani said the match between local giants Nyasa Big Bullets and Silver Strikers would go ahead to avoid disappointing thousands of fans who “had travelled from far to come and watch the game.”
Sports Minister Henry Mussa was among the dignitaries that watched the game .
Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, won independence from British colonial rule in 1964.
Independence day is marked annually with military parades, fireworks, music concerts, prayers and sports.