Indonesia stampede: Families heartbroken as at least 17 children die following Arema FC match

At least 17 children have died following the stampede, ITV News' Dani Sinha reports.

Families in Indonesia have been left reeling in shock after at least 17 children were killed in a stampede following a football match.

An Indonesian police chief and nine elite officers have been removed from their posts on and 18 others are being investigated over the use of tear gas at the stadium, in East Java’s Malang city

At least 125 people were killed in the chaos at Arema FC fans' home ground, officials said.

Distraught family members were struggling to comprehend the loss of their loved ones, including 17 children, at the match attended only by hometown Arema FC fans.

The organiser had banned supporters of the visiting team, Persebaya Surabaya, because of a history of violent soccer rivalries.

The disaster on Saturday night was among the deadliest ever at a sporting event.

Ninety-six people died in a crush in the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield, south Yorkshire, in 1986.

Arema players and officials laid wreaths Monday in front of the stadium in East Java on Monday.

“We came here as a team asking forgiveness from the families impacted by this tragedy, those who lost their loves ones or the ones still being treated in the hospital,” head coach Javier Roca said.

Supporters of soccer club Arema FC pray for the victims of Saturday's soccer match stampede outside the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang Credit: AP

On Monday night, about a thousand soccer fans dressed in black shirts held a candlelight vigil at a football stadium in Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi to pray for the victims of the disaster.

Witnesses said some of the 42,000 Arema fans ran onto the pitch in anger on Saturday after the team was defeated 3-2, its first loss at home against Persebaya in 23 years.

Some threw bottles and other objects at players and soccer officials. At least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze outside the stadium.

But most of the deaths occurred when riot police, trying to stop the violence, fired tear gas, including in the stands, triggering a disastrous stampede of fans making a panicked, chaotic run for the exits.

Police officers and soldiers stand amid tear gas smoke after clashes between fans during a soccer match at Kanjuruhan Stadium Credit: AP

Most of the 125 people who died were trampled or suffocated. The victims included two police officers.

An online petition named "The police must stop using tear gas" gained nearly 6,000 signatures by Monday morning.

Arema FC's Chilean football coach said that "fans died in the arms of players".

"The boys passed by with victims in their arms," Javier Roca told Spanish broadcaster Cadena Ser. "I think the police overstepped their mark."

President of Arema FC Gilang Widya Pramana, right, hugs Heri Soesanto, the brother of one of the victims during a condolence visit Credit: AP

At least 17 children were among the dead and seven were being treated in hospitals, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said. Police said 323 people were injured in the crush, with some still in critical condition.

Police are questioning witnesses and analysing video from 32 security cameras inside and outside the stadium and nine cellphones owned by the victims as part of an investigation that will also identify suspected vandals, he said.

Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas and ensure that those found responsible are tried in open court.

While FIFA has no control over domestic games, it has advised against the use of tear gas at football stadiums.

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Despite Indonesia’s lack of international prominence in the sport, hooliganism has prompted concern in the soccer-obsessed country where fanaticism can end in violence.

Data from Indonesia’s watchdog, Save Our Soccer, showed 78 people have died in football match-related incidents over the past 28 years.

Saturday’s game was among the world’s worst crowd disasters in sports, including a 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City in which over 80 died and more than 100 were injured.

In April 2001, more than 40 people were crushed to death during a soccer match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In February 2012, 74 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a match between rivals al-Masry and al-Ahly when thousands of al-Masry fans invaded the field and attacked visiting supporters. The Egyptian league was suspended for two years as a result.