A stampede broke out early yesterday outside a stadium near Manila where thousands had lined up to watch a popular game show, killing at least 73 people and injuring 359 others, officials said.
About 30,000 people were waiting to get inside the stadium for the program Wowowee when the stampede occurred, said Vicente Eusebio, the mayor of Pasig, a Manila suburb.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said 73 people were killed, revising a higher death toll reported by authorities due to double counting amid the confusion. At least 359 injured people were taken to 11 hospitals, according to officials.
The mayor said the melee erupted as the crowd pushed and surged toward the gates, thinking they were open, trampling those in front. One survivor said some people in the crowd became rowdy when they could not enter.
"The gates were being partially opened then shut," said Myrna Britania, 42, who spoke at a hospital where the injured were being treated. "The raffle tickets can be obtained at the gate so everyone was in a hurry. There was pushing and people in front of the gate were crushed."
Britania, who had spent all night in line, said "people at the back of the line were pushing not knowing there were already people dead lying on the ground in front."
Eusebio and police denied reports that the stampede was caused by a bomb scare.
Merquieades Salazar cried over the body of his wife, who was among those crushed. Salazar, 45, said the couple was jobless and wanted to try their luck at a raffle with a jackpot of 20,000 pesos (US$384).
"In the desire to win money, she is the one I lost," Salazar sobbed as he stroked his dead wife's hair.
"We both fell and we were both pinned to the ground," he said.
Authorities collected the dead and lined up the bodies on the side of a street outside the stadium for identification as bags and shoes lay scattered outside the hall.
Police Superintendent Gerry Galvan said at least 50 people died at the stadium and the rest at hospitals where they were taken. Soldiers loaded some of the bodies into a truck.
Radio DZBB reported hospitals were overwhelmed with the scores of injured and were using parking lots to accommodate them. The Rizal Medical Center alone was treating 200 people, said Senator Richard Gordon, head of the Red Cross.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo consoled the injured during a visit to the medical center, putting her hands on the shoulders of Leny Subayco, who was waiting for an X-ray of her injured leg.
Subayco said she lost consciousness after being pressed against the stadium gate and woke up later under a pile of people.
"Under me was a dead person, beside me there was another dead and there was another dead above me," she said.
The game show, organized by the ABS-CBN TV network, is extremely popular because it offers big prizes, like cars and money.
Gordon blamed poor organization of the event for the tragedy.
ABS-CBN's executive vice president for entertainment, Charo Santos-Concio, said that the show had been postponed indefinitely.