Probe underway after stampede kills 6 at Italian nightclub

Five minors and a woman were killed and dozens injured in a stampede probably caused by a pepper spray-like substance used by one of the guests attending a packed rap concert in a nightclub on Italy’s Adriatic coast early on Saturday.

The incident happened around 1am local time when some 1,000 people were listening to Italian rapper Sfera Ebbasta at Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) in Madonna del Piano near Ancona city.

Among the five minors dead were three girls and two boys. The sixth victim, a 39-year-old woman, had accompanied her daughter to the nightclub. Seven of the injured are in serious condition in a hospital, reports said citing firefighters and doctors.

The fire service said a “stinging substance” sprayed by a guest, suspected to be a minor girl, made youths gathered at the nightclub flee leading to the stampede. Interior minister Matteo Salvini said the substance could be ammonia.

The nightclub had guests beyond the permissible limit, he said, adding that whoever is responsible for the tragedy would be caught shortly.

Head prosecutor of Ancona Monica Garulli reported that while the disco has only 870 seats, the organisers of the show sold as many as 1,500 tickets. Police said preliminary inquiry revealed that the disco had far more people than it could accommodate on Friday night.

Newspaper Corriere della Sera said one of the guests might have sprayed tear gas. Panicked people who fled towards the emergency exits found them blocked. They were told by bouncers to go back, the paper said citing a survivor.

Police have opened investigation at two levels. They want to find the culprit who used the spray to create the deadly panic. They also want to check the safety measures that were in place during the show.

The nightclub management have some tough questions to answer. Why were the emergency exits closed? Why were so many tickets issued when the disco can accommodate only 870 guests?

Rapper Ebbasta expressed his sorrow over the loss of lives and said his prayers are with the families of the victims. He said it is dangerous and stupid for anyone to use pepper spray in a crowded disco.

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