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Police fire tear gas after fans invade pitch in East Java, triggering a stampede that killed 129 and wounded dozens more,
Indonesian police say at least 129 people have been killed and dozens injured after a stampede at a football match in the province of East Java.
In a statement on Sunday, police said supporters of Arema FC stormed the pitch at the Kanjuruhan stadium in the eastern city of Malang after their team lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday night.
Police said they tried to persuade 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 in an effort to avoid the tear gas. Some suffocated in the chaos and many were trampled to death.
“Thirty-four people died inside the stadium and the rest died in hospital,” said East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta.
The death toll is likely still increasing, he said, since many of about 180 injured victims’ conditions were deteriorating.
Video footage from local news channels showed people rushing onto the pitch and images of body bags.
The Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 has suspended games for a week following Saturday’s match. Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are are bitter rivals and Saturday’s result marked the former’s first loss to the latter in more than two decades.
The Indonesian government has apologised for the incident and promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding the stampede.
“We’re sorry for this incident… this is a regrettable incident that ‘injures’ our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium,” Indonesian Sports and Youth Minister Zainudin Amali told broadcaster Kompas.
“We will thoroughly evaluate the organisation of the match and the attendance of supporters. Will we return to banning supporters from attending the matches? That is what we will discuss.”
There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with a strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.
But Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, said Saturday’s tragedy was “historic”.
“We have never seen something like this before. This is a historic tragedy, not only for football in Indonesia, but football internationally. This is one of the biggest tragedies the sport has seen, in terms of fan violence, in terms of deaths of fans at a match, ” she said.
“There are a number of questions that remain. Firstly, were the police’s actions appropriate in trying to control the crowd and secondly, how much of an issue was overcrowding? We understand the stadium in Malang had a capacity of 42,000, but were more people than that allowed in?”