Religious Crusade Claims 14 Lives


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Panafrican News Agency

October 7, 1999
Posted to the web October 7, 1999

Paul Ejime
Lagos, Nigeria (PANA)

Anxious relatives still besieged hospitals in Benin city, mid-western Nigeria Thursday for enquiries in the aftermath of Tuesday night's religious crusade in which police have confirmed at least 14 people dead.

Reports reaching Lagos said most of the dead and injured worshippers, mainly women and children, were taken to the central hospital, where the staff are having difficulties in coping with desperate visitors.

About 500,000 people were said to have crammed themselves in a school compound where visiting German preacher, Reichard Bonnke flagged off his weeklong "great gospel campaign".

The soul-winning service was followed by a heavy down pour, that delayed the departure of the congregation, who later became restive.

A stampede later ensued with many people being trampled resulting in the deaths and injuries.

The police have confirmed 14 people dead, but independent sources said the death toll could be higher.

Open air religious crusade is a common feature in constitutionally secular Nigeria, which has witnessed a proliferation of the so-called latter-day Pentecostal churches, promising prosperity and other miracles to adherents.

It is Bonnke's second visit to Nigeria after his planned preaching in the predominantly Muslim Northern city of Kano in 1991 was cancelled because of a riot.

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