At least 31 people were killed in a stampede at a church in Rivers State, southern Nigeria, a police spokesman said.
Hundreds of people who had turned up to receive food at the church this morning broke through a door, which caused the stampede.
Rivers State Police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko said, “People were there earlier and some got impatient and started rushing which led to a stampede.
“Police are on the ground monitoring the situation while the investigation is ongoing.”
A witness said the dead included a pregnant woman and many children.
The stampede at the event had been organized by Kings Assembly Pentecostal Church in Rivers State and involved people coming to the church’s annual ‘Shop for Free’ charity programme.
The 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 and the locked door was forced open, Ms Iringe-Koko added.
Godwin Tepikor of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said first responders were able to retrieve the bodies of those trampled to death and bring them to the morgue.
Security forces also cordoned off the area.
Doctors and paramedics treated some of the injured as they lay in the open field.
Videos from the scene showed the clothes, shoes and other items destined for the beneficiaries.
A witness who only identified himself as Daniel said “there were so many children” among the dead.
He added that five of the children who died were from the same mother and that a pregnant woman also lost her life.
Seven injured “respond to treatment”
Some church members were attacked and injured by relatives of the victims after the stampede, according to witness Christopher Eze.
However, the church declined to comment on the situation.
The police spokeswoman said the seven injured were “responding to treatment”.
The “Shop for Free” event has been suspended while authorities investigate how the stampede happened.
Stampedes are common in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, where more than 80 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics.
In 2013, 24 people died during an overcrowded religious gathering in the southeastern state of Anambra.
And at least 16 people were killed in 2014 when a crowd spiraled out of control during a selection for government jobs in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
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