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73 dead in stampede at Philippine game show


An official probe has been ordered into the cause of a stampede that broke out at a Philippines stadium today, killing 73 people and injuring more than 300 in a crush to attend a popular game show that was giving away cash and prizes.

Some people had camped for days to get into the taping of the Wow-wow-wee variety show, and officials said they did not know what triggered the crush outside the gates of the stadium in the Manila suburb of Pasig.

“We were hoping to get a chance to win money,” said housewife Esperanza Marasigan, desperately searching for her relatives in the mayhem. “We never thought this would turn out to be a nightmare.”

Philippine Red Cross chief Richard Gordon said authorities had revised the death toll down to 73 from 88 after finding that some of the fatalities had been counted twice.

Most of the 392 people injured were not in serious condition, and many had been treated and released, he added.

President Gloria Arroyo ordered an official probe into the cause of the horrific dawn accident in eastern Manila outside the set of the show, carried by ABS-CBN television.

Police said more than 10,000 people had showed up outside the Ultra stadium, built in the 1970s, as early as Thursday to secure limited seats to the noontime show.

Ms Arroyo later visited area hospitals to comfort the injured, and pledged to release results of the official probe in 72 hours.

Bodies were brought out of the stadium and placed on a litter-filled street, covered with plastic bags or newspapers. Some relatives stroked the faces of their dead loved ones, mourning and in shock after the melee.

Melvin Salazar, 17, tried to console his father, who refused to let go of the body of his wife as a paramedic tried to intervene.

“We were just coming to have a good time with the family,” the son said.

The cause of the stampede was unclear, with some officials saying someone had shouted “bomb,” sparking a panic that caused people to trample one another.

Pasig deputy police chief Romeo Abaring said they were still investigating the incident and that they could not say if the crush had been triggered by the alleged bomb threat.

“The reason for the stampede was a lot of people converging on one spot,” said Mr Abaring, noting that the crowd had surged towards the sole entrance to Ultra stadium, a narrow passageway where most of the dead were found.

Most of the victims were middle-aged or elderly women. Some of the dead still had their eyes open.

“These people just didn’t know what hit them,” one rescue worker said.

Many people had camped outside the stadium for days, hoping to win minibuses or houses or even the top prize of one million pesos, a special offering for the show’s one-year anniversary.

Hundreds of fans were still outside the stadium hours after the tragedy, waiting to get into the show.

Willie Revillame, the host of Wow-wow-wee, initially said he wanted the show to go on but ABS-CBN later said they would postpone it.

“We only wanted to make these people happy and to help the poor,” Mr Revillame said, breaking down during an interview aired by the station.

Mr Revillame later appeared before thousands of people inside the stadium to tell them that the show would be postponed and to appeal for understanding.

“Please don’t be angry at us,” he told the crowd. “Don’t be worried. We will find a way to care for the injured and the dead.”


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