Photo: Kampala Shopping Mall before the fireworks display. Source: The Star. - Photo: 2023

New Year’s Tragedy at Uganda Mall Takes Nine Lives

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | KAMPALA (IDN) — A poorly designed shopping mall in Kampala, Uganda, according to visitors, was a disaster waiting to happen.

On New Year’s Eve, that disaster became every parent’s nightmare. After fireworks were exploded outside the Freedom City Mall, families moved towards narrow corridors to exit—and the crowd became a crush separating children from their parents. Nine people died, mostly between 10 and 20 years of age.

Four other died on their way to a hospital “largely due to suffocation,” said national police spokesman Luke Owoyesigyire. “Rash” acts and “negligence” led to the tragedy, he added.

The celebrations to welcome in 2023 were the first in the east African country in three years, after restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and security issues were lifted.

Owoyesigyire placed responsibility for the disaster squarely on the crowd. “After the fireworks display, they were told to go back,” he said in a NTV interview. “That is where the stampede started, because they were rushing.  Instantly five people died.”

The incident brought up images of a similar crush in Korea two months ago. On one social media site, a contributor wrote: “This was an unfortunate tragedy that could’ve been prevented if there were authorities that managed the crowds. They still should’ve controlled how many people could stay in that small area.

“The authorities should’ve prepared for this year, since it’s the first year they’re celebrating after the pandemic.”

Other visitors criticized the mall design. “The place just doesn’t look finished; in fact it looks like it’s falling down. There is no flow from the badly designed car park to the shops,” wrote a New Zealander visiting Uganda with children.

“Shoddy workmanship. The design is as mysterious as the family house of Adams Family,” wrote another visitor on a social media website.

Territorial police are “investigating an incident of rash (behavior) and neglect,” an official statement began.

“This could be a rude awakening to the officials all over the world,” commented another on social media from South Korea. Officials should start crowd handling system that will prevent this kind of thing happening again all over the world where many crowds are involved.”  [IDN-InDepthNews — 02 January 2023]

Photo: Kampala Shopping Mall before the fireworks display. Source:  The Star.

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