Accra - Four people died and 30 others were injured on Sunday in a stampede in a popular church in Ghana, caused by an offer of free anointing (holy) water, police said.
Thousands of worshippers hoping for water that they believe can cure illnesses gathered at the Nigerian prophet T. B. Joshua's Synagogue Church of All Nations in the capital Accra, when people in the back began pushing to get to the altar.
“In trying to get it, a stampede happened,” said police spokesman Freeman Tetty. “Four are confirmed dead and 30 are injured, some in critical condition.”
One worshipper, Gertrude Sumbamala, who suffered a broken leg in the incident, had travelled from Ghana's far north-west for an interview for a job promotion, then decided to go to the church.
“We went there as early as four in the morning,” she said.
“People from the back, they pushed... and they fell on us. So we were battered by a lot of forces.”
Innocent Adraku said her mother was also trampled by the crowd, and was admitted to the hospital with chest pains.
“We also came to receive the anointing water, that was all,” said Adraku, whose mother travelled from the regional capital Ho near Ghana's border with Togo.
The police spokesman said an investigation into the stampede had been launched. No arrests were made.
Reverend Sam McCaanan told the local radio station Citi News that a planned service had been cancelled.
“We are used to numbers,” he said, but such an incident was unprecedented.
“We are devastated, it's very unfortunate and we are very sorry,” he added, promising to make sure this does not happen again.
Joshua commands one of the continent's largest evangelical Christian denominations from his base in Lagos.
He is known for his prophecies about world events and for performing what his followers consider miracles, like curing blindness.
West Africa's second-largest economy with a population of 25 million, Ghana is predominantly Christian, with evangelical Protestant churches like Joshua's being a particularly popular segment of the religious landscape. - Sapa-AFP