At least 15 Afghans have been killed and more than a dozen injured in a stampede near a Pakistani consulate in eastern Afghanistan.
The stampede occurred in a stadium in Jalalabad city where thousands of Afghans had gathered to secure visas from the consulate, officials said on Wednesday.
Many people were trampled when they tried to exit the stadium in the city of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, provincial hospital spokesman Zaher Adel said.
Sohrab Qaderi, a provincial council member , where the incident occurred said of the 15 people dead, 11 were women and several senior citizens were wounded.
Two other provincial officials said more than 3,000 Afghans had congregated to collect tokens needed to apply for a visa to travel to Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, this morning, tens of thousands of people had come to the football stadium which led to the tragic incident,” provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.
To avoid large crowds from gathering at the visa centre, the applicants had been directed to a nearby football stadium in Jalalabad, Khogyani said.
The Pakistan consulate had resumed issuing visas last week after a seven month pause because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Thousands of Afghans from Nangarhar and other nearby provinces had arrived since the early morning to apply for medical visas or to visit relatives.
Reporting from Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Filio Kontrafouri said there were rumours on social media suggesting the consulate “would give out more visas than usual”.
“So when the gates opened, they… started to rush in and that is how the deadly stampede happened,” she said.
“Pakistan is one of a handful of countries where Afghans can apply and get a visa to.”
In a tweet, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, said he was “deeply saddened” at the reports of casualties in Jalalabad. “We sympathise with the families of victims,” he wrote.
Khan said the Pakistani government is “engaged with Afghan authorities for better facilitation of visa applicants”.
“We are committed to continue visa issuance to Afghan nationals under new visa policy while making the process smoother and streamlined at our end,” he posted.