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Stampede at Congo music festival kills more than 20 people

Stadium plunged into darkness, triggering stampede at event honoring late Congolese musician King Kester Emeneya

More than 20 people were killed Friday in a stampede at a music festival in southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo, officials and witnesses said.

Electrical generators apparently failed and plunged the stadium into darkness, triggering a rush to get out during the event honoring a recently deceased popular singer.

The incident occurred around 2 a.m. in the town of Kikwit, said one witness, Papa Mukalay, who was attending the concert.

"Everyone wanted to be the first to get out. It was total confusion," he said.

The provisional death toll by midday Friday was 23. Injuries were also reported, said government spokesman Lambert Mende. He said investigations into the cause of the power outage had been launched.

"A rush due to the infatuation of the public, who came in large numbers to watch events marking the first edition of the festival … led to the death of people and damage to property," a statement from the Bandundu provincial government said.

Kikwit is the hometown of Jean Baptiste Emeneya, best known as King Kester Emeneya, a singer who died in Paris in February at the age of 57. A massive funeral ceremony for him was held in Kinshasa in March.

Emeneya was one of the first to introduce electronic instruments such as the synthesizer to Congolese music. He enjoyed a three-decade career in music, with hundreds of songs to his name.

The festival was scheduled to last through Sunday, but the Bandundu provincial government said Friday that the rest of the program would be canceled because of the stampede.

"This morning activities have restarted quietly but people are in a state of shock," Mukalay said.

Wire services

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