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Survivors recount horror of Indonesian stadium tragedy as authorities say locked exits contributed to crowding | CNN

Jakarta, Indonesia

Fans trying to escape the chaos that erupted at Indonesia’s Kanjuruhan stadium last Saturday were trapped after security failed to open several exit gates, according to the national football association, contributing to the crowding at the stadium. at least 131 people died.

Security forces are facing growing anger over their role in the disaster, amid questions over whether officials used excessive force to try and remove fans from the pitch following Arema FC’s 3-2 loss against visiting Persebaya Surabaya. .

In the disaster, one of the worst in the sport’s history, several of Arema FC’s 42,000 fans clashed with police, prompting security forces to fire tear gas into closed areas of the stadium. Most of the deaths, including 33 children, are believed to have occurred when terrified fans tried to flee choking smoke, causing a crush at exits.

Indonesian police launched an investigation into the use of tear gas at the game in the city of Malang, leading to the suspension of nine officers from East Java province.

But amid accusations of mismanagement by both the police and the game’s organizers, survivors of the tragedy are demanding answers.

“We were all disappointed with the result of the match, but there was no (sign of) violence or chaos until the police started firing tear gas,” said 62-year-old Arema fan Toni Lestari Widodo.

It only “escalated the situation” and made it worse, he said. “The police overreacted in their handling of the situation. I really don’t understand why they did it. There really was no point in the violence (on his part).”

Andi Hariyanto, 32, lost several members of his family in the tragedy, including his wife, two teenage daughters and his nephew.

He had stayed behind with his family in the stands to avoid joining the crowds rushing for the exits.

Riot police on the pitch fired tear gas at supporters in the stands, he said.

“It was a big mistake,” he said. “Don’t you know that there were many women and children who were also watching the game? I still don’t understand. What did we do to make them want to shoot us?

Hariyanto managed to escape the ensuing crush along with his 2-year-old son, Gian.

His wife, Gebi Asta Putri Purwoko, and their two daughters, Natasya Debi Ramadani, 14, and Naila Debi Anggraini, 12, did not.

Around midnight, he returned to the stadium, where dozens of body bags lay on the ground. “One by one, I opened the covers to find my family,” she said.

“Then I found Natasya and Naila, lying close to each other,” she said, fighting back tears. “I don’t remember how many bodies I went through to find them, but when I finished everything, I still couldn’t find my wife.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the Indonesian Football Association said it had permanently dismissed the security officer responsible for regulating exits from the stadium. He said some of the gates remained closed during the disaster because orders were not properly communicated.

“The doors should have been open but they were closed,” said Erwin Tobing, head of the association’s disciplinary commission. There are 14 gates in the stadium in total.

The rules and security measures state that the doors must be unlocked 10 minutes before the end of a match.

The night of the disaster, several doors were still closed minutes after the referee blew the final whistle, the association said.

Spokesman Ahmad Riyadh also blamed a shortage of workers, saying “only a few guards” had been available to open the gates.

All matches in the Indonesian soccer league have been suspended by order of President Joko Widodo, pending official investigations. On Wednesday, Widodo said he will order a “total audit” of soccer stadiums across the country in an effort to prevent further tragedies.

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