By Staff Reporter
At least 11 people died and many were injured in a stampede at a stadium in Zimbabwe as thousands attending a church service tried to leave through the only open exit, police said Friday.
Police said around 15,000 people were packed into the stadium in Kwekwe, 281 kilometres (175 miles) southwest of Harare, on Thursday evening for an event organised by Walter Magaya, a popular preacher who claims to perform miracles.
Provincial police spokesman Shadreck Mubaiwa said when the service ended worshippers rushed to the only exit and four people died during the crush.
Seven others were declared dead on arrival in hospital.
Walter Magaya is attracting both church worshippers and cash
“Because of the pressure, some people fell resulting in the deaths and injuries,” Mubaiwa said.
A witness who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP: “Common sense did not prevail, especially on the security side.”
Church authorities could not be reached for comment but state television quoted spokeswoman Catherine Nyangoni confirming the deaths and saying that the church was working with the police to establish the cause of the tragedy.
Speaking on a local radio station Thursday night, Magaya said he was “gutted” by the incident.
“I rushed back to the venue and it was very sad, the saddest moment of my life,” he said.
“This was our event and as a church we have to take the blame for the tragedy. It is still too early to say what caused the stampede but the fact that the stampede took place at the venue means that part of our system failed to function.”
Magaya’s is among several emerging Pentecostal churches where followers are drawn by promises of miracles.
An event organised by his Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries in the capital two weeks ago was attended by around 200,000 people, according to local media.
In May 2013, four people were killed during a stampede at a church run by Nigerian preacher TB Joshua. The incident occurred when the church began distributing free holy water, purported to cure illnesses and protect against evil forces.
Just six months later, 28 died in another stampede in Nigeria when about 100,000 worshippers gathered at a church about 300km south of Abuja to celebrate All Souls Day.