At least 11 women were killed Wednesday in a stampede in an Afghan football stadium where thousands had gathered to apply for visas at a nearby Pakistan consulate, officials said.
Many people were trampled at the stadium in the city of Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, with 10 women and three men injured, provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told reporters.
Provincial hospital spokesman Zaher Adel also confirmed the death toll.
Nangarhar provincial council member Naser Kamawal gave a higher toll of 15 dead and 15 injured.
“Unfortunately this morning tens of thousands of people had come to the football stadium which led to the tragic incident,” Khogyani said.
The Pakistan consulate had resumed issuing visas last week after a seven-month pause because of the coronavirus outbreak.
To avoid large crowds from gathering at the visa centre the applicants had been directed to a nearby football stadium in Jalalabad, Khogyani said.
“There were already thousands of people gathered at the gates of the stadium and women were given the priority to stand in the front,” said witness Abdul Ahad, who had come to the stadium to secure a Pakistani visa.
“When the officials announced that the gates were opening in the morning, everybody rushed to enter the stadium to be the first to deliver their passports,” Ahad told AFP.
“The women, most of them elderly and who were in the front fell and could not get up. It was chaotic.”
Officials said hundreds of policemen had been deployed at the stadium to control the crowd.
In ultra-conservative Afghanistan it is customary for women to queue separately from men.
Hours after the incident, relatives were seen carrying the dead in coffins from a mortuary in Jalalabad.
Many Afghans travel to neighbouring Pakistan every year, while millions have taken refuge there over the past few decades to escape war and poverty in conflict-wracked Afghanistan.