As the prayers marking 53 years of independence celebrations were getting to its climax at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe, the mood was suddenly dampened with news that eight people had died while making their way into Bingu National Stadium (BNS).
The sad news started filtering in as mere rumours mainly through the social media, later developed into a true but painful story, and when Chairperson for the officiating clergy during the prayers, Dr Timothy Nyasulu, came on the podium to make the announcement, the BNS auditorium which was packed to the brim went into total silence.
“Am sorry to interrupt the flow of our programme here, I have some very unfortunate news which has just reached us. We have received a report that 42 of our brothers and sisters who were entering the stadium at BNS in area 49 have been injured and eight have died,” said Dr Nyasulu.
It was at this point that people started believing the images that had come through on many people’s phones depicting people, mainly children lying unconscious as security personnel and other civilians tried to offer help of different types.
The BNS was the venue for a football match between Silver Strikers and Big Bullets as an extension to the independence anniversary celebrations and President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika was to be guest of honour.
With the turnout of events, immediately after the prayers at BICC, President Professor Mutharika was forced to rush to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) to visit the victims of the tragedy where he described the development as very shocking and unfortunate.
“The innocent souls we have lost today wanted to be part of our independence celebrations. I am so saddened that they have lost their lives on a day like today and some have been hospitalized here like we have just seen. I promise the bereaved families and other victims of government’s support in this time of need,” said the President.
At KCH, the President who visited the casualty ward, High Dependence Unit and the Mortuary further said this should be the last time for a thing of similar nature to happen.
“Going forward, I think relevant authorities should make sure that this does not happen again. Those are modern structures whose designs are very much accommodating. We should make sure all proper and safety procedures are followed when people are entering the stadium,” he said.
According to one clinician at KCH, the hospital has received a total of 65 cases plus the 8 who have died. At the time of the visit some were in the ICU while others were treated as outpatients. From the eight who have died, there is one adult male, one girl while the rest are boys.
As a result of the incident at BNS, the President changed his earlier plans of being present at the stadium and he instead delegated minister responsible for Sports Henry Mussa to be there on his behalf.