Friday, February 26, 2010
According to a government official, at least 26 people were killed in a stampede on Thursday at a historic mosque in the northwestern city of Timbuktu, Mali.
“There were 26 killed and 40 wounded,” Oumar Sangare, the Internal Ministry spokesman, told Reuters. However, other news agency reports put the death toll as low as fifteen.
An official, who requested to remain anonymous, said the accident could have begun as a result of renovation work on the Djingareyber mosque—which is made primarily of mud, and was built in the fourteenth century. Construction work blocked off some of the roads, and that could have been a factor in the incident. “The mosque is being renovated, financed by the Aga Khan, and the work is carried out by South African specialists,” the official told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.
“Because of these renovations, the passage on the north side of the mosque is closed off. On that side, to get through, the faithful found an improvised alleyway. But the alley couldn’t take the number of people using it. So there was a stampede. Somebody shouted ‘someone has died’ and panic took over,” the same official went on to say.
Others have remarked that rescue services responded “very quickly” to the stampede, and helped the “many injured.”
The Xinhua news agency reports the stampede started when an elderly woman fell in one of the town streets near the city’s main mosque, where a sermon was being conducted in front of a large crowd; a passersby then rushed to assist the woman, apparently disrupting the crowd’s movement and causing the stampede.
“People were circling the mosque, a ritual at each Mouloud [the observance of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday] and there was a huge crowd build up,” commented Mohamed Bandjougou, one of the witnesses to the event, to AFP by telephone. “There were at least fifteen dead. The bodies were taken to the morgue.”
Authorities warned the number of injured may actually be higher than reported, saying that “we cannot rule out the fact that the number of those injured will increase because some of them are still hiding in their homes instead of coming to the hospital.” A hospital source commented that some of the people hurt were in critical condition, and needed to be evacuated to the capital, Bamako, as soon as possible.
The mosque’s imam, who gave his name as Asseyuti, commented on the incident. “We’re in mourning. What happened is a real trauma. We accept the will of God. He gives us life, he takes it away,” he said.
According to an official statement, Malian president Amandou Toumani Toure is traveling to Timbuktu from Bamako in light of the stampede.