Stadium roof caves in, several killed, hundreds injured in Iran
SARI, Iran (AP) – The roof of a stadium grandstand caved in, killing several fans and injuring hundreds of others, during a soccer match Sunday in northeastern Iran, the official news agency reported.
After the accident, angry fans clashed with police trying to make their way into Mottaqi Stadium in the city of Sari, 155 miles northeast of Tehran.
State-run television showed images of fans wielding metal poles battling anti-riot forces on the field. One wall of the stadium was torn down, and iron fences separating the grandstand from the field had been rooted out.
Some rioters started fires on the field, said Ali Ansarian, a player with Persepolis, one of the teams in the match.
”We are trapped in the locker room,” Ansarian said by telephone. ”There is such a thick crowd outside that we can’t force open the door to the locker room. Through a small window, I can see fighting outside between fans and the police.”
It was not immediately clear what had sparked the riots. Some 20,000 fans were in the stadium at the time of the collapse, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. It reported ”hundreds” injured and ”several” dead without giving exact numbers.
Ansarian said that he had seen at least 30 people dead.
A few hours later, Ansarian said the riots had been contained and that he and his fellow players were on a bus headed for Tehran. Team manager Mahmoud Khordbin said one of the players had been badly injured when a rock hit him on the head.
Asghar Naghipour, a telephone operator at the Imam Khomeini Hospital in Sari, said that his small hospital so far had taken in 160 injured people.
He said survivors had reported that fans had climbed on a roof that was under construction at the stadium to get a better view. ”The greatest casualties appear to be from where that happened,” he said.
At Sari’s Bu Ali Hospital, injured people, many of them critical, were packed in the hallways and in the courtyard, said the telephone operator there. Ahmad Ali Barzegar, the senior doctor on duty, said 82 people had been admitted, some of them with gunshot wounds.
Officials and witnesses at the stadium, too panic-stricken to give their names, also confirmed that several people had been killed.
One of the officials, reached by telephone at the scene, said that the stadium was old and so overcrowded that aid workers could not quickly reach some of the injured.
Tehran television, which was showing the game live at the time the roof collapsed, suddenly cut off transmission after the accident.
Persepolis was playing another local team, Shemooshak of Nowshahr, when the accident happened during the second half.
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