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Police extinguish a fire with tear gas after fans entered a stadium in East Java, triggering a stampede that left more than 100 people dead.
Indonesian police say at least 129 people have been killed and dozens injured after crowds trampled them during a riot at a football match in East Java province.
In a statement on Sunday, police said Arema FC supporters stormed the field at a stadium in the eastern city of Malang after their team lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday night.
Police said they tried to convince fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas to control “riots” after two officers were killed. Hundreds of fans then ran to an exit gate to try to avoid tear gas. Some people suffocated in the chaos and many were trampled to death.
“Thirty-four people died inside the stadium and the rest died in the hospital,” East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta said.
The death toll may still be rising as the condition of many of the approximately 180 injured victims is deteriorating, he said.
A hospital director told a local TV station that one of the victims was only five years old.
Video footage from local news channels shows fans streaming to the pitch at the Kanjurujan Stadium in Malang after Arema FC lost to Persebaya Surabaya. Handcuffs could be seen, with what appeared to be tear gas in the air. The image also shows seemingly unconscious people being carried away by other fans.
The stadium has a capacity of 42,000 and authorities say it is a sold-out. Police said about 3,000 people stormed the yard. Vehicles outside the stadium were also burned. These include a police truck.
The Indonesian government apologized for the incident and promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding the stampede.
“We regret this incident… it is an unfortunate incident that has ‘hurt’ our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium,” he said. Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali told Kompas television, “We will thoroughly evaluate the organization of the match and the attendance of the fans. Will we return to the ban? Are the supporters attending the matches? That’s what we’ll discuss.”
BRI Liga 1 suspended
Supporter violence is a burning problem in Indonesia, with fierce competition between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters. Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals and fans of the latter team were not allowed to buy shares for Saturday’s match due to fears of violence.
Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organizers had ignored authorities’ recommendations to hold the match in the afternoon instead of in the evening. He also said the government had recommended printing only 38,000 tickets, but instead a crowd sold out 42,000.
“The government has made improvements in the conduct of football matches… and will continue to improve. But this sport, which is a favorite of the wider community, often provokes a sudden emotional outpouring of its supporters,” he said in an Instagram post.
The Indonesian Football Federation (PSSI) has suspended football matches of Indonesia’s top league, BRI Liga 1, for a week.
It also banned Arema FC from holding home matches for the rest of the season and said it would send an investigation team to Malang to determine the cause of the crush.
“We apologize and extend our apologies to the families of the victims and all parties involved in the incident,” PSSI President Mochamad Iriawan said.
Tragedy struck when Indonesia was scheduled to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding for next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of Euro, after China withdrew as the host.
Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, said Saturday’s disaster was “historic”.
She said: “Violence and riots are common at football matches in Indonesia, but we have never seen anything like this happen before. “This is a historical tragedy, not only for Indonesian football, but international football. This is one of the biggest tragedies the sport has ever seen, in terms of fan violence, in fan deaths at a match,” she added.
Other stadium disasters include a crushing 1964 Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at the Lima National Stadium that killed about 320 people and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt, where 74 people died in the clashes.
In 1989, around 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in the United Kingdom, when an overcrowded and fenced siege collapsed at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.