(AFP) – Oct 2, 2008
DAR ES SALAAM (AFP) — Tanzanian police Thursday questioned the managers of a hall where a stampede killed 19 young people, as the government announced compensation.
As the poor east African nation mourned their dead, the government and local authorities announced compensation for families whose children had been killed or injured in the incident Wednesday.
"A team has been formed to investigate the incident," Tabora regional commissioner Abeid Mwinyimusa told AFP. "Some hall managers are being held by police for questioning."
Authorities also arrested the operator of the Bubble's Club discotheque, where the deadly stampede took place, and banned all discos in the predominantly Muslim region until further notice.
The incident occured late Wedneday in the remote Tabora region, 750 kilometres (470 miles) northwest of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
A large number of youths had gathered for Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
After abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and sex between dawn and sundown each day of Ramadan, Tanzanian youths break their fast, or iftar, by organising a jamboree called "disco toto."
Eleven girls and eight boys -- all under the age of 18 -- died and several others were injured in the disco, housed in a building owned by the state-run National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Some 16 bodies have been identified.
"Sixteen others were admitted in Tabora Regional hospital, three of them in critical condition," Mwinyimusa added.
He said rescue teams rushed to the scene shortly after the stampede that took place between between 5.30 p.m. and 6.15 p.m. (0230 and 0315 GMT) on Wednesday. Many children had been taken to hospital unconscious.
The cause of the stampede remained unclear, but state-run Daily News newspaper said the stampede "started after the air-conditioning system in the building malfunctioned."
Tabora temperature was reported to be 33 degrees centigrade (91.4 centigrade) at the time.
"The disco hall was small and crowded, it appears that is why the children died from from the stampede and suffocation," a government official told AFP.
"It was a sad incident because many of them were children," he added.
"But the government will ensure that all wrongs are corrected and culprits punished."
President Jakaya Kikwete sent condolences to the bereaved families and despatched Labour and Youth Development Minister Juma Kapuya to coordinate help.
"The president has received reports of the tragic deaths with shock and grief and wants thorough investigations on the matter," his office said in a statement.
In Tabora, Kapuya said Kikwete had pledged to give 500,000 shillings (431 dollars, 312 euros) to each family affected by the tragedy. The NSSF and regional authorities pledged more contributions.
"This is the worst-ever disaster to occur during Eid al-Fitr celebration in the country's history," Tanzania's swahili-language Nipashe newspaper mourned.
State-run Daily News said the tragedy was the "biggest in Tanzania's history."
"The town is in a sombre mood as a result of the incident," Tabora regional police commander Daudi Siasihe told AFP.
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