The Rivers State Police Command has confirmed the death of 31 persons in a stampede at the venue of an outreach program put together by a church in Port Harcourt on Saturday morning.
It was gathered that the church, identified as Kings Assembly invited members of the public to partake in the event where gift items and food were promised to be shared to congregants.
The acting spokesperson for the state Police Command, Grace Iringe-Koko who confirmed the 31 deaths, said the church had organised the outreach to give out palliatives to the underprivileged in society before the unexpected occurred.
She said “It is 31 persons that died. It was a stampede because a church was trying to give out palliatives.
“They were about to start the event by 9am or so. But some persons went there and broke into the place and went inside.
“So people started rushing in and there was a stampede.
“From the information we have, the church was trying to gift items and food to assist the underprivileged.
“Meanwhile, investigation has commenced to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the incident,” Iringe-Koko, a Superintendent of Police, said.
President Muhammadu Buhari said he is extremely saddened by the reported deaths of scores of worshippers.
In a reaction to the incident, the President admonished organizers of religious, political and other big events to plan well and carry them out in a disciplined manner to avert similar calamitous deaths and injuries.
The President directed that “all efforts should be made to provide relief to those injured in the unfortunate incident,” and that disaster and relief agencies of the Federal Government should maintain constant contact with the Rivers State government to ensure that good care is taken of the relief efforts.
“President Buhari expressed his condolences and that of the nation to the bereaved families and to the government and people of Rivers State and prayed to the Almighty to repose the souls of the deceased”, said a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu.