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Wowowee stampede kills 73

() - February 5, 2006 - 12:00am
MANILA - A stampede killed at least 73 people and injured nearly 400 others yesterday when more than 20,000 broke into the Philsports Arena in Pasig City to fight for seats at what was to have been the first anniversary of the popular game show Wowowee on ABS-CBN where huge cash prizes and other items were to be given away.

Senator Richard Gordon, concurrently the Philippine National Red Cross chief, said the death toll was revised to 73 from 88 after officials discovered that some of the fatalities had been counted twice. At least 392 others were listed as injured in the dawn tragedy.

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

President Arroyo ordered an official probe into the cause of the stampede.

Some officials claimed someone shouted " bomb " as people rushed in to fight for seats, triggering the stampede that killed those who fell and got trampled over.

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

The would-be spectators had hoped to win minibuses or houses or even the top prize of one million pesos which was the special offering for the first anniversary of the show.

Around 40 percent of the people in the Philippines live on less than 100 pesos a day and game shows like Wowowee that offer substantial prizes naturally generate a huge following.

The show's host, Willie Revillame, initially said he wanted the show to go on, but the ABS-CBN management later said it would have to be postponed.

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

Network chairman Eugenio Lopez said: " We want to assure the public that ABS-CBN will stand behind any costs that have been incurred by the victims. "

Arroyo later comforted the injured at hospitals, where emergency rooms were overwhelmed with victims, some of them forced to await treatment on plastic chairs or even on the floor.

One of the injured, Leny Subayco, told the president she lost consciousness after being pressed against the stadium gate and woke up later under a pile of people. " Under me was a dead person. Beside me there was another dead person and there was another one dead above me, " she said.

Pasig City Mayor Vicente Eusebio said the stampede ensued when the huge crowd rushed toward the gates, thinking they were already open, trampling those in front. One survivor said some people in the crowd became rowdy when they could not enter.

" The gates were being partially opened then shut, " said Myrna Britania, 42, one of the injured being treated in a hospital. " The raffle tickets were being distributed at the gate so everyone was fighting to get one. There was pushing and showing and people in front of the crowd at the gate were getting crushed. "

Britania, who had spent all night in line, said " people at the back of the crowd were pushing forward not knowing there were already people crushed dead and lying on the ground in front. "

Survivors of the incident said the sheer force of the surge of the crowd snapped the locks at the gates and forced them open. People then tried to squeeze through the narrow passageway and that was where most of the people died.

Police Superintendent Gerry Galvan said at least 50 people died at the stadium while the rest died in hospitals.

Even after the stampede, hundreds of people remained in the area - some out of curiousity, others wandering around in shock, while still others continued to line up, not giving up hope of attending the show.

The capacity of the Philsports Arena is only 9,000 so trying to accommodate the estimated 20,000 people who showed up was a security nightmare. - AFP, Philippine Star

ESPERANZA MARASIGAN EUGENIO LOPEZ LENY SUBAYCO MYRNA BRITANIA PASIG CITY PASIG CITY MAYOR VICENTE EUSEBIO PEOPLE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL RED CROSS PHILIPPINE STAR PHILSPORTS ARENA
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