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About 125 die in Indonesia football disaster

About 125 die in Indonesia football disaster
Damaged police vehicles lay on the pitch inside Kanjuruhan stadium. (GP)

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At least 125 people have died in a crush at an Indonesian football match that has become one of the world’s worst stadium disasters.

Hundreds were also hurt in aftermath of home team Arema FC’s loss to bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya at the overcrowded stadium late on Saturday in Malang, East Java.

The crush took place after police tear-gassed fans who invaded the pitch.

As panic spread, thousands surged towards Kanjuruhan stadium’s exits, where many suffocated.

FIFA, the world’s governing football body, states that no “crowd control gas” should be carried or used by stewards or police at matches.

The organisation’s president Gianni Infantino said it was “a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension”.

One eyewitness told the BBC that police had fired numerous tear gas rounds “continuously and fast” after the situation with fans became “tense”.

Next to one exit gate a hole smashed through the wall testifies to the desperation to escape the crush that developed.

There are candles next to the gate, put there by supporters to remember the victims.

The doors themselves are slanted outwards, a sign of the sheer level of force from the inside.

Indonesian officials at one stage put the death toll in the disaster as high as 174 people, but this was later revised downwards.

President Joko Widodo has ordered that all matches in Indonesia’s top league must be stopped until an investigation has been carried out.

Videos from the stadium show fans running on to the pitch after the final whistle marked the home team’s 2-3 defeat, and police firing tear gas in response.

“It had gotten anarchic. They started attacking officers, they damaged cars,” said Nico Afinta, police chief in East Java, adding that two police officers were among the dead.

“We would like to convey that… not all of them were anarchic. Only about 3 000 who entered the pitch,” he said.

The Indonesian football association (PSSI) said it had launched an investigation, adding that the incident had “tarnished the face of Indonesian football”.

Violence at football matches is not new in Indonesia, and Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are long-time rivals.

However Persebaya Surabaya fans were banned from buying tickets for the game because of fears of clashes.

Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD posted on Instagram that 42 000 tickets had been sold for the match at Kanjuruhan stadium, which has a stated capacity of 38 000. (BBC)