Clashes between supporters of two Indonesian soccer teams in East Java province have killed 174 fans and police officers, mostly trampled to death, police said.
Several brawls between supporters of the two rival soccer teams were reported on Sunday inside the stadium after the Indonesian Premier League game ended with Persebaya Surabaya beating Arema Malang 3-2.
The fights prompted riot police to fire tear gas, which caused panic among supporters, said East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta.
Hundreds of people ran to an exit gate in an effort to avoid the tear gas. Some suffocated in the chaos and others were trampled, killing 34 almost instantly.
More than 300 were rushed to nearby hospitals to treat injuries but many died on the way and during a treatment, Afinta said.
Officials said the death toll is likely still increasing, since many of the injured victims’ conditions were deteriorating.
Video footage from local news channels showed people rushing onto the pitch in the stadium in Malang and images of body bags.
The Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 has suspended games for a week following the match and an investigation had been launched, the Football Association of Indonesia said.
Fan violence is an enduring problem in Indonesia, where deep rivalries have previously turned into deadly confrontations.
Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals.
Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for the game due to fears of violence.
However, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organisers ignored the recommendation of authorities to hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening.
And he said the government had recommended only 38,000 tickets be printed, but there was instead a sell-out crowd of 42,000.
Police said 3,000 people stormed the pitch.
“We would like to convey that… not all of them were anarchic. Only about 3,000 who entered the pitch,” Afinta said.
“This is a regrettable incident that ‘injures’ our football at a time when supporters can watch football matches from the stadium,” Indonesian Sports and Youth Minister Zainudin Amali told broadcaster Kompas.
“We will thoroughly evaluate the organisation of the match and the attendance of supporters. Will we return to banning supporters from attending the matches? That is what we will discuss.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered a probe and asked the sports body to suspend Liga 1 matches while calling for this to be the “last soccer tragedy in the nation”.
Indonesia is to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May at six stadiums across the country. The Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang is not included in that list.
Other stadium disasters include a 1989 crush in the stands at Britain’s Hillsborough Stadium, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans, and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt where 74 people died in clashes.
In 1964, 320 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during a stampede at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at Lima’s National Stadium.