At least 174 dead after riot at Indonesia football match

At least 174 people died at a soccer stadium in Indonesia when fans stormed the field and police responded with tear gas late Saturday.  (AFP photo)

At least 174 people died at a soccer stadium in Indonesia when fans stormed the field and police responded with tear gas late Saturday. (AFP photo)

MALANG, Indonesia: At least 174 people died at a soccer stadium in Indonesia when fans rushed onto the field and police responded with tear gas, sparking a stampede, authorities said on Sunday.

Arema FC fans at Kanjuruhan Stadium in the eastern city of Malang took to the pitch late on Saturday after their side lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya, their first loss to their bitter rivals in more than two decades.

A group of people carry a man at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, Indonesia on Saturday. (AFP photo)

Police, who dubbed the riots a “riot,” tried to persuade fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas after two officers were killed.

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Many of the victims were trampled to death, according to police.

“127 people died in the incident, including two police officers. 34 people died in the stadium and the rest died in hospital,” East Java Police Chief Nico Afinta said in a statement on Sunday. The death toll was later estimated at 174.

Afinta said many people were crushed and suffocated as they ran to an exit.

Pictures taken from inside the stadium during the onslaught showed huge amounts of tear gas and people climbing over fences.

People carried injured spectators through the chaos.

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Vehicles set on fire, including a police truck, littered the streets outside the stadium on Sunday morning.

The Indonesian government apologized for the incident and promised to investigate the circumstances of the stampede.

“We apologize for this incident…this is a regrettable incident that ‘hurts’ our football at a time when fans can watch football matches from the stadium,” Indonesia’s Sport and Youth Minister Zainudin Amali told Kompas broadcaster.

“We will thoroughly evaluate the organization of the game and the attendance of the fans. Will we go back to banning fans from the games? We will discuss that.”

The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) suspended football matches for a week, banned Arema FC from hosting home games for the remainder of the season and announced it would send an investigation team to Malang to determine the cause of the crowding.

“We are sorry and our apologies to the families of the victims and everyone involved in the incident,” said PSSI Chairman Mochamad Iriawan.

Fan violence is a problem in Indonesia, where deep rivalries have turned precious into deadly confrontations.

Some matches – the biggest being the Old Indonesia Derby between Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung – are so heated that players from top teams have to travel to away games under heavy protection.