Eight persons were feared killed during a stampede as customers of an online marketing firm, Inksnation, besieged one of its offices in Rumuodara, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State on Tuesday.
The police, however, confirmed only two deaths and said many were in critical conditions.
But eyewitnesses said the number of fatalities was more than eight.
Hundreds of customers, who registered with the platform, gathered at its office early on Tuesday with the hope of shopping for items with the money in their electronic wallet.
But trouble started when the surging crowd struggled to enter the premises after the doors were flung open as the firm could not control the people who turned out.
While speaking, one of the customers, who gave her name as Chinaza, said the crowd was too much, adding that they started stepping on each other, leading to the stampede.
It was gathered that those invited for the package were registered members from Ikwerre, Emuoha and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state.
She said, “As they opened the gate, everybody wanted to rush in. They even pressed me. I am having pain in my chest now. As we went inside, I also stepped on some who fell to the ground without knowing.
“About 13 persons were on the ground and people were stepping on them. Even one woman lost her pregnancy here.”
One of the survivors said some people fainted in the process, adding that it was a serious stampede and it was difficult to escape.
“For me, leaving that place is a testimony because I was almost pushed to the ground,” the survivor stated.
A viral online video showed some of the victims lying lifeless on the ground, even as others were seen trying to revive those who had collapsed.
The survivors blamed the firm for the incident, saying the event was not properly organised.
On how the scheme works, a lady said she registered with N1,000, adding that the firm promised to pay her N12,000 on the 12th day of every month.
She explained, “I registered with N1,000. They told me that on 12th of every month, they would be paying me N12,000.
“Then we would go shopping too. But along the line, this month they said we would not go for the shopping again.”
Another customer said when she found her way inside the office, there was no package and the operators said they could not deliver the items due to the crowd.
“I now asked them if at all they really prepared for this before inviting people; I asked them why they didn’t make the items ready two days ago.
“Before we knew it, the firm’s officials had disappeared.”
A male survivor said he escaped death by a whisker, adding that he sustained a head injury and a dislocated shoulder.
“We were just standing there when they opened the gate. Before we knew it, people started rushing in. The next thing was that people started falling on each other,” he stated.
Meanwhile, an official of a hospital, where some victims were rushed to, said five of the seven persons admitted to the facility were responding to treatment.
“They brought seven persons. Two of them were dead on arrival. We tried to stabilise the other five and they are getting better now,” he explained.
The spokesman for the state police command, Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed the incident, saying the Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, had ordered a full-scale investigation into the incident, even as he gave the name of the online firm as Inksnation.
Omoni said in a statement, “I can confirm the incident of this morning (Tuesday) at an events centre in the Rumuodara area of the East-West Road, Obio/Akpor LGA, where palliatives were being distributed by Inksnation, a non-governmental organisation, to her registered members from Ikwerre, Emohua and Obio/Akpor local government areas, when suddenly there was a stampede leading to the death of two persons.
“Some sustained varying degrees of injury and are currently receiving medical attention. Meanwhile, the situation is under control. The Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, has ordered an immediate probe into the unfortunate incident with a view to ascertaining the circumstances and bringing persons found culpable to justice.”