By CHINEDU ASADU, Associated Press

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A stampede Saturday at a church rummage sale in southern Nigeria left 31 people dead, police told The Associated Press, a shocking development at an event that , according to organizers, was aimed at “offering hope” to the needy.

The stampede at the program organized by the Assembly of Kings Pentecostal Church in Rivers State involved many people seeking help, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokeswoman for the state. State.

Many victims have come to benefit from an annual “Shop for Free” charity program organized by the church. Such occurrences are common in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, where more than 80 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics.

Saturday’s charity program was due to start at 9 a.m., but dozens arrived as early as 5 a.m. to secure their place in the queue. said Iringe-Koko. Somehow they forced the locked door open, she said, noting that in addition to the fatalities, seven other people were injured but “responding to treatment”.

Political cartoons about world leaders

political cartoons

Videos from the scene showed the clothes and shoes for the beneficiaries. Doctors and paramedics treated some of the injured as they lay in the open field.

The “Shop for Free” event has been suspended while authorities investigate how the stampede happened.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.