A stampede at a church gathering in Liberia’s capital Monrovia killed at least 29 people, including 11 children, on Wednesday night, the deputy information minister confirmed to state radio, reported Reuters.
Minister Jalawah Tonpo said the incident occurred during an all-night Christian worship event at New Kru Town, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital.
“The doctors said 29 persons died and some are on the critical list,” Tonpo said. “This is a sad day for the country.”
According to eyewitnesses, some criminals and hooligans in the area attacked the worshipers attending a revival service known as a crusade with machetes and other deadly weapons in an attempt to stage a robbery, resulting in a big chaos. Among those who lost their lives in the incident include 17 women, 11 children, and three men.
Such gatherings typically gather thousands of people in Liberia, a highly religious country where Christians constitute a majority of the population of five million. Street gangs have become an increasing problem in Monrovia and other Liberian cities in recent years. Bands of Liberian street gangs known as Zogos commonly commit robberies with machetes and other small weapons.
A police spokesman said that investigations were underway and that one person had been arrested, carrying a knife.
Liberian President George Weah, who said in a statement that he was “disheartened” by the deaths, announced three days of mourning. He even visited some of the survivors of the stampede in the hospital on Thursday.
The president’s office said the Liberian Red Cross and Disaster Management Agency had been called in to assist victims.
Moses Carter, a spokesman for Liberia National Police, said the police force is going to ensure that all those that are responsible for what occurred are made to face the full weight of the law.