Scores killed in stampede at Tanzania church service

Map of Tanzania.

A stampede at a stadium in northern Tanzania has left at least 20 people dead and over a dozen injured during a church service, a government official said on Sunday.

Hundreds were packed at the stadium on Saturday evening in Moshi town near the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and stamped on each other as they rushed to get anointed with “blessing oil”.

“Twenty people died and 16 others were injured in the incident,” Moshi district commissioner Kippi Warioba told Reuters by telephone.

Among those killed were five children, he said.

“The stampede occurred when the worshippers were rushing to get anointed with blessed oil,” Warioba said.

A pastor in Tanzania by the name Boniface Mwamposa is known to draw large crowds by promising prosperity and cure for disease to worshippers who walk on what he describes as “blessed oil” during his church services.

The death toll is feared to rise due to the size of the crowd and dark conditions when the stampede occurred.

According to Warioba, “The incident took place at night and there were many people, so there is a possibility that more casualties could emerge. We are still assessing the situation.”

The number of “prosperity gospel” pastors who promise to lift people out of poverty and perform “miracle cures” has been on the rise in recent years in Tanzania.

Thousands of people in the nation of 55 million flock to Pentecostal churches whose main source of income is “tithe” which is the 10% or so of income that the worshippers are asked to contribute.