At least nine people, including children, were killed and several others injured in a stampede during a New Year's Eve celebration at a shopping mall in Uganda's capital Kampala, police said on Sunday.
The crush occurred after fireworks were fired outside the Freedom City shopping mall in the south of the capital, said Luke Owoyesigyire, a national police spokesman. Five people were killed instantly and "many others" injured in the stampede, he said in a statement.
"Rescue workers arrived at the scene and transported the injured to hospital," he said, adding that four of the injured died on the way to hospital, including from suffocation, bringing the death toll to nine.
Mr. Owoyesigyire blamed "carelessness and negligence", without further details.
Most of the victims are "young people aged 10, 11, 14 and 20 years," said Patrick Onyango, spokesman for the police in Kampala.
"There are several injured and our investigation team is following up to get the exact number as well as full information on the deceased, and we are contacting their relatives," Onyango continued.
The stampede "started when we went to watch the fireworks," Sylvia Nakalema, 27, a Kampala-based entrepreneur, told AFP.
"There was a huge crowd. People started pushing each other .....which made some people fall. Children were crying and it was chaos," she continued.
"I survived because I was pushed into a corner by the crowd. At one point, I felt I was losing my breath.”
“I couldn't get out until the situation calmed down. But some people were already on the ground gasping for breath," Nakalema added.
In images broadcast by the NTV channel, several grieving families were gathered in front of a city mortuary.
These were the first New Year's celebrations in Uganda in three years, after restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and security concerns.