Harare – Police in Zimbabwe claim an explosion from a gas cylinder belonging to a vendor of fresh French fries caused a stampede at a church rally this on Friday that left 11 dead, it was reported Sunday.
Officials from the church holding the rally and some eyewitnesses have said that police fired teargas to control crowds trying to get out of Kwekwe’s Mbizo Stadium early on Friday morning.
But police spokesperson Shadreck Mubaiwa told the Sunday Mail: “There was a vendor using a gas stove to prepare fresh chips and selling them to congregants.
“When the people were leaving the stadium it exploded after the owner failed to close the 20kg gas cylinder and there was a popping sound which the congregants confused for teargas. The gas also left a strong smell which people could easily have confused for teargas,” Mubaiwa said.
But the vendor said his canister exploded “way after” the stampede, the paper reported.
At least 54 people are now known to have been injured in the tragedy, which occurred at a rally held by popular local “prophet” Walter Magaya.
The incident has again raised questions about the Zimbabwe police’s methods of crowd control. Several people were reported injured on 8 November when police fired teargas at fans attending a dancehall contest in the capital Harare.
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