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At least 31 people were killed during a stampede at an event scheduled by the King’s Assembly church in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Law enforcement spokesperson Grace Iringe-Koko confirmed the number to Channels Television, and the outlet said Saturday that the incident happened at the local Polo Club.
UPDATED: Police Confirm 31 Dead In Rivers Church Stampede pic.twitter.com/pQaN1mhjow
— Channels Television (@channelstv) May 28, 2022
The crowd reportedly tried to shove its way through a small entry point after people arrived early that morning for the event — which was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. — but the gate was locked, according to Channels Television.
“However, at about 8am, some sports men arrived and opened the small entrance to have their training session, only for the crowd to see it as an opportunity to access the tent that was mounted by the church for the program,” the outlet said.
Images posted online showed a mass of people crowded together and a large banner that read, “Shop for Free 28th May, 2022”:
Black Saturday: 40 people feared [email protected] in a stampede that occurred this morning at King’s Assembly Church’s ‘Shop For Free Programme’ at Port Harcourt Polo Club.
Hundreds of people who had turned up to receive food at the church event broke through a gate, causing the stampede. pic.twitter.com/sWAQTBubRF
— OSG (@OloriSupergal) May 28, 2022
King’s Assembly advertised the Shop for Free event on its website, saying, “The economy and the state of the nation has kept many out of job[s] and left others with little or nothing to cater for themselves or their loved ones.”
The assembly said it was hosting the event to help people in the community.
“From food stuff to household items, furniture and supplies, clothes, shoes and sundry items for adults and kids, there is no limit to the gift items that are given out during this event,” the site continued.
In a social media post on Friday, King’s Assembly asked followers to pray for good weather, organization, peace, and ease at the event.
According to the Channels Television report, “A similar incident in December 2020 also claimed some lives when a crowd gathered for a Christmas palliative organized by an online sales platform in Port Harcourt.”