Scores dead in game show stampede


First posted 11:15am (Mla time) Feb 04, 2006

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(2nd UPDATE) OVER 70 people were killed and as many as 201 others were injured Saturday when a stampede broke out at a stadium in Pasig City, officials said.

Vice President Noli de Castro told a news briefing aired live on television that at least 79 people died after thousands of people stampeded into the Philsports arena, previously known as ULTRA, to attend the live broadcast of a popular television variety show by ABS-CBN network.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that the total number of fatalities had risen to 71.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is expected to visit the site of the tragedy later Saturday, her chief aide Eduardo Ermita said.

She expressed sorrow over the incident and ordered all government agencies to extend their full support to the victims.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation. Some officials have said that a person in the crowd had shouted “bomb,” triggering the stampede but survivors and police investigators said it was just the sheer crush of people, surging into a narrow passageway to enter the stadium.

Aside from De Castro, Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross and Metro Manila police chief Vidal Querol were on hand early to assist the victims, most of who were brought to the Rizal Medical Center and Medical City.

The stampede erupted at around 6 a.m. as thousands, including those who had been camped outside the stadium since Wednesday, were lined up to watch “Wowowee.”

Television footage showed Army and Red Cross personnel loading the remains of the victims on military trucks.

“We will extend assistance to the victims. We will also look at the liabilities,” Pasig City Mayor Vicente Eusebio said in a separate interview.

ABS-CBN anchor Karen Davila announced on air that the Lopez-owned network was “saddened” by the tragedy and would shoulder the medical and funeral expenses of the victims.

Quoting initial reports, Querol said the stampede erupted after a heckler shouted to the crowd that there was a bomb.

“We are looking at the lack of a security arrangement,” Eastern Police District (EPD) Chief Director Oscar Calderon told reporters.

Bodies covered with blankets were still lying on the street outside the stadium as paramedics prioritized those still alive so they could be taken to hospitals.

A little boy was seen crying over the body of his mother, trying to awaken her.

Relatives of the dead said they were told that tickets to the show were supposed to be given out starting at 6 a.m. By 7 a.m., the restive crowd started pushing and shoving to get inside the gates.

Some were clambering up the roof while others were squeezing their bodies inside the gates that were being opened at times.

As of 10 a.m., hundreds of people were still waiting outside the stadium, apparently waiting for a final decision on whether the show would go on.

“Wowowee” was planning to give away big prizes, including 1 million pesos, a house and lot, and a car for its anniversary.

Show host Willie Revillame, in an interview with ANC television, said he was saddened by the incident. But he said he was still willing hold the show on Saturday noon at the Philsports arena.

Thousands of people were still streaming through the area after the incident, milling around dead bodies and blocking the entry of ambulances.

Discarded shoes and slippers along with broken bottles and food were scattered all around the stadium. With reports from Joel Francis Guinto ,; Jocelyn Uy and Luige del Puerto, Inquirer; AFP, AP

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