At least 174 people have been killed in a riot at a football match in Indonesia, most of whom were trampled to death after police fired tear gas, in one of the world’s worst sporting disasters.
Violence flared at the end of the game in Malang, East Java, where hosts Arema lost 3-2 to Persebaya Surabaya.
Angry at their team’s first home defeat by the rival club in 23 years, thousands of Arema supporters invaded the pitch and threw bottles and other missiles at players and football officials.
Clashes spread outside the stadium where at least five police vehicles were overturned and set on fire.
Riot police responded by firing tear gas, including towards the stadium’s stands, sparking panic among the crowd.
Tear gas is banned at football stadiums by the international governing body FIFA.
Some people were suffocated and others trampled as hundreds ran to the exit in a bid to escape the chemical.
Children were among the victims, according to some reports.
East Java police chief Nico Afinta told a news conference: “We have already done a preventive action before finally firing the tear gas as (fans) began to attack the police, acting anarchically and burning vehicles.”
More than 300 people were taken to nearby hospitals but many died on the way and during treatment, Mr Afinta said.
He said the number of dead was likely to increase because many of the estimated 180 injured and receiving treatment were deteriorating.
Grieving relatives waited for information about their loved ones at hospitals and others tried to identify bodies laid out at a morgue.
Indonesia’s football association, known as PSSI, has suspended the premier league indefinitely in light of the tragedy and banned Arema from hosting matches for the rest of the season.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed his condolences.
“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this is the last soccer tragedy in this country. Don’t let another human tragedy like this happen in the future,” he said.
“We must continue to maintain sportsmanship, humanity and a sense of brotherhood of the Indonesian nation.”
He ordered the sports minister, national police chief and chairman of the PSSI to carry out a full investigation into the match and its security arrangements.
Indonesia’s sports Minister Zainudin Amali also expressed his regret that “this tragedy happened when we were preparing for soccer game activities, both national and international level”.
Indonesia was due to host the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup, with 24 participating teams.
As the host, the country automatically qualifies for the cup.
“Unfortunately, this incident has certainly injured our soccer image,” Mr Amali said.
Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat said there were some 42,000 spectators at Saturday’s game, all of whom were Arema fans because the organiser had banned Persebaya fans from entering the stadium in an effort to avoid trouble.
Hooliganism is rife in the football-obsessed Indonesia where fanaticism often ends in violence, highlighted by the 2018 death of a Persija Jakarta supporter who was killed by a mob of hardcore fans from rival club Persib Bandung.
Justinus Lhaksana, a former coach for Indonesia’s national futsal team, told Sky News: “This is the not first time we have had deadly casualties. But usually it’s one or two people who die after a match.
“I’m very sad the right solution was not found way before this happened.”
Mr Lhaksana claims fans in Indonesia enter the pitch “almost every weekend”, and such disturbances have been going on for years.
“This is not a clash between two rivalries – this is just a clash between disappointed fans and police.”
Saturday’s game ranks among the world’s worst football disasters, joining the likes of Hillsborough, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.
A number of UK clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have expressed their sadness at the latest tragedy.