Tanzania church stampede leaves at least 20 dead

Monday, February 3rd, 2020 12:00 |
Stampede victims’ kin at a morgue in Moshi to identify their relatives, yesterday. Photo/AFP

Twenty people in Tanzania were trampled to death at an open-air evangelical church service in the north of the country, officials said on Sunday.

Moshi District Commissioner Kippi Warioba said he feared the number of dead could still rise from the accident which took place on Saturday.

“So far, 20 people have died, but the death toll could increase as some are  wounded,” Warioba said.

At least 16 others were injured in the incident, he said.

The tragedy happened when a crowd of worshippers attended a prayer ceremony on Saturday led by popular preacher Boniface Mwamposa, who heads the Arise and Shine Ministry Tanzania.

The stampede occurred when Mwamposa, who calls himself the “Apostle”, poured what he said was holy oil on the ground and the crowd surged toward to touch it in the hope of being cured, witnesses said.

“It was horrible, people were trampled on mercilessly, jostling each other with elbows,” said a witness, Peter Kilewo. 

“It was like the preacher had thrown bundles of dollars about... and there were all these deaths,” he added.

The preacher, fled the scene after the stampede, and police appealed in a broadcast on national television for him to hand himself in.Mwamposa was arrested in Dar es Salaam later on Sunday.

Preacher arrested

“Boniface Mwamposa tried to flee after this incident, but as I speak, he is in the hands of the police,” Interior Minister George Simbachawene told a press conference.

Simbachawene said the preacher had started the stamped by calling on the packed crowd to place their foot on the spot where he had poured the oil.

“These are the words that led to these deaths,” said Simbachawene. “He must answer for it.”

Tanzanian police chief Simon Sirro, who confirmed the toll of 20 dead, said investigations were ongoing into the incident.

Seven other people were arrested in Moshi, where the stampede took place,in connection with the incident.

Sirro also said police would also look into how church organisations handle such large-scale crowd events in general.

President John Magufuli also issued a statement mourning the death of 20 people in Moshi and 20 others killed by floods in Lindi region this week. 

“I’m very sorry for these deaths of these Tanzanians in the two events,” he said.   -AFP

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