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10 Die, Dozens Hurt in Japan Stampede

July 21, 2001

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TOKYO (AP) _ A crush in a crowd leaving a fireworks display Saturday in a western Japanese city killed at least 10 people and injured dozens, including many children.

The tragedy happened outside the railway station in Akashi, a city about 400 miles southwest of Tokyo, said Masafumi Oshita, police spokesman in Hyogo Prefecture.

People tried to push their way through the crowd, with some rushing to catch their trains, said an official with the Akashi police who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses told national broadcaster NHK that the overpass became more and more mobbed, and it got harder and harder to breathe as people were crushed together. TV footage showed a metal panel on the overpass hanging askew.

``As soon as the fireworks ended, many people started pushing, and people started getting angry and yelling at each other,″ a youth in a T-shirt told national broadcaster NHK. ``The woman next to me fell, and I landed on top of her. She was having trouble breathing.″

A man told NHK that he couldn’t even keep both feet on the ground because the crowd on the bridge was pushing so much. ``I was almost falling too, because I had to stand on one leg,″ he said.

The youngest of the dead was 2 years old, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

Up to 90 people were injured, several seriously, firefighters told Kyodo. Those not taken to hospitals were treated in emergency tents set up near the overpass, Kyodo said.

The footbridge is the only route across a busy road from the beach where the crowd watched the fireworks display to the station, NHK said.

TV broadcasts showed a crowd at the scene, including youths in T-shirts and young women in cotton kimonos, while the red lights of emergency vehicles flashed in the darkness.

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