15 People, Mainly Women Seeking Visas for Medical Care, Killed in Stampede in Afghanistan: Reports

Wali Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Afghanistan stampede

More than a dozen people, many of whom were women hoping to receive visas to allow them entry into Pakistan, were killed in a stampede at a crowded stadium in Afghanistan on Tuesday, according to reports.

At least 15 people, including 11 women, died following the incident at a soccer stadium in Jalalabad, Reuters reported.

The victims were among thousands of people who’d gathered at the venue in the hopes of receiving a visa so that they could cross the border into Pakistan in order to seek medical treatment, according to the New York Times.

“The visa applicants jostled to secure their token from the consulate officials,” an Afghan official told Reuters. “The crowd got out of control, leading to a stampede.”

There were reportedly 3,000 people in attendance who had arrived before dawn to seek visas, as Pakistan recently announced that it would resume issuing visas at a more normal rate after limiting the number because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The consulate had reportedly been closed for nearly eight months, and only recently reopened.

Wali Sabawoon/AP/Shutterstock Afghanistan stampede

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“I stood in the queue all night but at some point, people got angry and started pushing,” survivor Farmanullah told Reuters. “Many of us fell on the ground.”

A witness named Abdullah told the Times that the incident began in the women’s section.

“Police arrived and the situation got worse,” Abdullah said. “I escaped from the stadium. When I came back, several women were lying on the ground and they were dead.”

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The Times reported that because Afghanistan has been plagued by war and does not have many medical facilities, many citizens go to Pakistan for medical treatment. About 3 million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, and many make the move seeking work or medical care.

Only 1,000 visas were processed on the day of the stampede, according to the Times.

The Pakistan embassy in Kabul reportedly expressed “deep grief and sadness” over the incident in a statement.

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