At least 11 people, many of them children, were crushed to death at a bull ring in central Venezuela on Sunday when excited crowds tried to force their way in to see a music show, police and officials said.
More than 60 people were hurt and local officials said the final death toll could be as high as 14.
At least one witness said people fled in panic after police officers fired shots in the air to try to control the crowds attempting to enter the stadium at the city of Valencia, 100 miles west of the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
“We were just waiting normally to get in and the municipal police started to fire into the air to try to get the crowds to go back…. People weren’t doing anything,” one injured teenage girl told Venezuelan television from a hospital bed.
Around 30,000 spectators, including hundreds of children, had already packed into Valencia’s 25,000-capacity Monumental Bull Ring to see the show organized by the Venevision private TV channel and even more people tried to push their way in.
“There was a riot; there were shots from the police to try to control things, and people got more agitated and pushed more and some of them were crushed,” a local radio journalist said.
Jesus Ramirez, chief of Carabobo state police, told Reuters there were 11 people confirmed killed and he had heard reports of three more victims who had arrived dead at other clinics.
State governor Enrique Salas Feo told Venezuelan radio he understood nine of the 11 confirmed dead were children.
“I saw people starting to climb over the fence into the ring and the police started firing,” one man, who did not give his name, told Venezuelan television at the local morgue, where grief-stricken relatives arrived to identify victims.
“A 10-year-old niece of mine died; she was trampled over, asphyxiated,” the man said. “I counted about 8 other dead bodies in the patrol vehicle she was put into,” he added.
Police chief Ramirez said: “It all began because the crowd was bigger than the safe capacity limit for the event”.
“There were hysterical women pushing to see their favorite artists even when they knew people had been killed,” he added.
Local Civil Defense official Rafael David Loaiza said the victims were crushed and trampled by the stampeding crowd.
“Apparently they put the children in front and the adults started to shove and they didn’t stop even when people fell down,” Loaiza told reporters.
Despite the deaths, organizers went ahead with the show, which featured both local and invited Latin American artists.
Puerto Rican singer Chayanne and Mexico’s Pablo Montero were reported to be among the foreign celebrities invited.