El Salvador football stadium crush survivors describe 'night of terror'

Fans take to the pitch of Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador.
An investigation has been launched by El Salvador's National Civil Police in the wake of the crush. Credit: AP

Survivors of a deadly football stadium crush in El Salvador have told of the moment they became caught up in the panic and narrowly escaped with their lives.

At least 12 people died in the crush when the Primera Division play-off quarter-final match on Saturday descended into chaos.

An investigation has been launched by the country's National Civil Police in the wake of the crush at the match between Alianza and FAS at the Cuscatlan Stadium, San Salvador.

Diego Armando, 14, said he attended the game with his father, recalling the moment he became trapped in a crowd of people.

"There were so many people that the small gate couldn't support them and it went down," he told El Salvador's Channel 12 television.

"I fell and my body from my waist to my feet was crushed. Five people pulled me free and saved me by a miracle. Two people in front of me died. I spoke to one and he didn't move."

His father, Hector Rivas, said the crush occurred because there were only two small gates open and the rest were closed.

"People began to push and I couldn't even breathe," he said.

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Alianza fan Jose Angel Penado said the game was scheduled to start at 7.30pm local time, but that officials closed the gate - designated for Alianza supporters - half an hour earlier and "left us outside [the stadium] with our tickets in our hands".

"People got angry. We asked them to let us in, but no. So they knocked the gate down," he added.

Another Alianza supporter, Tomas Renderos, described the crush as a "night of terror," adding: "I never thought something like this would happen to me."

Play was suspended after 16 minutes of the first-half, when supporters in the stands started to carry the injured out of a tunnel and down onto the pitch.

Authorities have closed the Cuzcatlan Stadium following the crush. Credit: AP

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said his country is "in mourning", while Civil Protection director Luis Amaya confirmed that around 500 people had been tended to at the stadium, and a further 100 were taken to local hospitals.

Pedro Hernandez, president of the men's first division in El Salvador, claimed the preliminary information he had was that the stampede occurred because fans pushed through a gate into the stadium.

On Sunday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: "I simply would like to express, of course, my condolences to all the people of El Salvador for this tragic incident."

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