Two people were killed and a young boy was fighting for his life in a coma after a terrifying stampede when thousands of fans jammed a Jakarta stadium for the Southeast Asian Games football final.
All 88,000 tickets at the cavernous Gelora Bung Karno stadium had been snapped up for the keenly anticipated showdown Monday night between the hosts and their rivals Malaysia, in which the visitors took gold 4-3 on penalties.
But 5,000 police were unable to control the deadly crush of fans -- many without tickets -- storming through a small stadium gate to get a live view of the match.
"The two victims died when the stadium doors at section 15 opened and everyone rushed in," Jakarta city police spokesman Baharudin Djafar told AFP.
"One of the bodies was identified and has been returned to his family, while the other is still at the morgue.
"Several others were taken to hospital with minor injuries, but one young boy slipped into a coma."
Tens of thousands of eager supporters had gathered outside the sold-out match, some hoping to buy tickets from touts and others finding spots in front of large outdoor screens, an AFP reporter on the scene said.
In the chaos, the bodies of the two men trampled to death -- both wearing the Indonesian team's jersey -- could not be immediately evacuated, police said.
Hundreds of people had been packed tight against the ticket barriers while fans inside the stadium were forced to crouch in aisles and walkways, witnesses said.
One of the victims was 21-year-old Reno Alvino, identified by his cousin Helmi Gemael.
"As we were entering the stadium, the crowd of people pushed each other to make their way forward," Gemael told AFP.
He said that Alvino "was pushed away from me and we were separated. I then heard that some people had fallen and that people had died."
He then "rushed to check" and found his cousin dead.
The bodies only reached paramedics two hours after the stampede, police said, and lay in a parked ambulance for an hour before being taken to hospital.
The 12-day SEA Games ended with a colourful closing ceremony at a sister stadium in co-host city Palembang, with organised performances standing in stark contrast to the mayhem in Jakarta on Monday.
Police said they would evaluate the organisation of the games and look into better securing the Jakarta stadium.
"What we're going to do is evaluate the performance of the three elements: the stadium, the organising committee and the police to work out how to improve security in the future," Djafar said.
The Games' organisers Inasoc had said prior to the event's opening two weeks ago that it had two helicopters on hand to rescue injured players or spectators from the massive stadium in the often-jammed south of Jakarta.
"I was not there and cannot comment on why helicopters weren't used," Inasoc chairwoman Rita Subowo said, adding that it was difficult to control the number of people who turned up to matches.
"They wanted to watch Indonesia and so they arrived even without tickets. There were maybe half as many people outside as there were in the stadium," she said.
The tragedy followed complaints over poor organisation at the multi-sport Southeast Asian Games and there had been calls for calm ahead of the flashpoint football final between arch-rivals Indonesia and Malaysia.
"We are saddened by the deaths and it is unfortunate that the game has come to such a point that hooligans and vandals now are spoiling what should be an enjoyable pastime," the Malaysian football association's secretary-general Azzuddin Ahmad said.
Earlier on Monday, fans had gone on the rampage after the stadium was declared sold out. They burned down a ticket booth and besieged the media centre before they were chased away by riot police.
Malaysia had requested armoured vehicles to escort their players to and from the venue after their bus was surrounded and kicked by hostile fans before their semi-final.
The run-up to the Games was plagued by concerns over unfinished venues, a lack of accommodation and poor transport.
Source: AFP Global Edition