60 Children Crushed to Death in Stampede

Posted on: 8:59 am, January 1, 2013, by , updated on: 09:00am, January 1, 2013

By Stephanie Halasz and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

(CNN) — A New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Ivory Coast turned from celebration to tragedy early Tuesday when more than 60 children were crushed to death in a stampede, according to state media reports.

The victims ranged in age from eight to 15, the official AIP news agency said. They were mostly from Abidjan, the country’s largest city and former capital.

The stampede occurred around 1 a.m. near a stadium in Plateau, the city’s business district, it said.

Rescue workers were at the scene two hours later but could not save the victims, AIP said.

More than 100 people were also injured in the incident, the news agency said.

It’s not yet clear what triggered the stampede.

Before the night’s events took a deadly turn, AIP reported that thousands of people had poured into the streets to join the celebration, seen by some as symbolizing the nation’s return to peace.

Nearly 5,000 extra personnel were deployed to ensure people’s security, the news agency said, most of them in the Plateau area.

Ivory Coast suffered months of violence following disputed presidential elections in November 2010. Laurent Gbagbo, then the incumbent president, refused to step down after Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner.

Gbagbo was arrested five months later and is now awaiting trial at The Hague, in the Netherlands, accused of crimes against humanity for the civil unrest and deaths.

The International Criminal Court also wants Ivory Coast to hand over his wife, Simone Gbagbo, to face allegations of crimes against humanity.

The West African nation is home to around 22 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook.

– CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.