JAKARTA: At least 125 people died at an Indonesian football stadium when thousands of angry home fans invaded the pitch and police responded with tear gas that triggered a stampede, authorities said on Sunday (Oct 2).
According to AFP, the tragedy on Saturday night in the city of Malang was one of the world's deadliest sporting stadium disasters.
At least 125 people died, East Java deputy governor Emil Dardak told broadcaster Metro TV on Sunday evening, significantly lowering officials' earlier death toll of 174 because of double counting, AFP reported.
"124 have been identified and one has not. Some names were recorded twice because they had been referred to another hospital and were written down again," he said, citing data collected by local police from 10 hospitals.
East Java police spokesman Dirmanto said the number of people injured now stood at 323, up from an earlier count of 180.
The stadium had been been filled beyond capacity, said Indonesia's chief security minister Mahfud MD. In an Instagram post, he said 42,000 tickets had been issued for a stadium that was meant to hold 38,000 people.
After the match on Saturday in East Java province where Arema FC lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, supporters from the losing team invaded the pitch and police had fired tear gas, triggering a stampede and cases of suffocation, East Java police chief Nico Afinta told reporters.
"It had gotten anarchic. They started attacking officers, they damaged cars," Nico said, adding that the crush occurred when fans fled for an exit gate.
Two police officers were among the dead, the police chief said, adding that 34 people died inside the stadium and the rest died in hospital.
The head of one of the hospitals in the area treating patients told Metro TV that some of the victims had sustained brain injuries and that the fatalities included a five-year-old child.
Video footage from local news channels showed people rushing onto the pitch in the stadium in Malang and images of body bags.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said authorities must thoroughly evaluate security at matches, adding that he hoped this would be "the last soccer tragedy in the nation".
Jokowi, as the president is known, ordered the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) to suspend all games in the Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 until an investigation had been completed.
World football's governing body FIFA specifies in its safety regulations that no firearms or "crowd control gas" should be carried or used by stewards or police.
East Java police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they were aware of such regulations.
PSSI secretary general Yunus Nusi said that FIFA had requested a report on the deadly incident and a PSSI team had been sent to the site to investigate.
Indonesia's human rights commission planned to investigate security at the ground, including the use of tear gas, its commissioner told Reuters.
Amnesty International called for an investigation into why tear gas was deployed in a confined space.
"Tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed. People must be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to disperse," it said in a statement.
People carried injured spectators through the chaos and survivors lugged lifeless bodies out of the stadium.
"It was so terrifying, so shocking," 22-year-old survivor Sam Gilang, who lost three friends in the crush, told AFP.
"People were pushing each other and ... many were trampled on their way to the exit gate. My eyes were burning because of the tear gas. I fortunately managed to climb up the fence and survived," he said.
There have been previous outbreaks of trouble at matches in Indonesia, with a strong rivalry between clubs sometimes leading to violence among supporters.
Zainudin Amali, Indonesia's sports minister, told KompasTV the ministry would re-evaluate safety at football matches, including considering not allowing spectators in stadiums.
The football world mourned the disaster with Gianni Infantino, president of world football governing body FIFA, calling the stampede "a tragedy beyond comprehension".
Clubs Manchester United and Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender Sergio Ramos also posted tributes online.
Spanish football clubs will also observe a minute's silence before matches on Sunday as a mark of respect for the victims.
The Asian Football Confederation, the governing body for football in the region, expressed its regret at the loss of life.
Among global stadium disasters, 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in Britain in April 1989, when an overcrowded and fenced-in enclosure collapsed at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.
Indonesia is to host the FIFA under-20 World Cup in May and June next year. They are also one of three countries bidding to stage next year's Asian Cup, after China pulled out as hosts.