SANGJU, South Korea (Reuters) - Thousands of people stampeded at a holiday music concert in South Korea on Monday, killing 11 and injuring 76 others, rescue officials said.
More than 5,000 surged to enter one of the gates at a stadium in the southern city of Sangju, and those waiting at the front fell and were crushed, the organiser of the concert, the broadcaster MBC, said in a news report.
All 11 killed were elderly women or children, MBC and rescue officials said.
"We have people who injured their heads or chests or have broken bones," a nurse at Sangju Red Cross Hospital said by telephone. "We have some old women here who were killed."
Seventy-six people were injured in the accident, the head of Sangju's fire and rescue emergency centre, Lee Tae-hyung, told YTN television. He said he did not think the death toll would rise much more.
A witness said the crowd had been waiting for two hours and was becoming visibly impatient when one of the gates opened.
"When the gate opened, the crowd surged with a roar," witness Shin Dong-won told YTN television.
The news reports said the stadium's capacity was 10,000 but 30,000 people were waiting to get in. Lee, the rescue official, said capacity was 25,000. The concert was to be taped for MBC.
The concert had top billings of South Korean singers who were popular with older audiences. Such concerts are often held on public holidays. Monday was Foundation Day, marking the legendary date of the founding of Korea in 2333 BC.
MBC said crowd control had been contracted out to a private security firm. It offered condolences to the victims' families without accepting direct responsibility.
Shin, the witness, said people in the crowd at the scene were squeezed tightly before the gates opened and kept moving to the front as the wait prolonged.
"Then there was an announcement that the gates would open, and the crowd surged, and it looked as if the gate was bending," he said on YTN. "Old women and children in the front fell."
Sangju is an old city in countryside about two hours' drive southeast of Seoul. It has a population of 120,000 and is surrounded by rich agricultural land producing rice and persimmons, according to the city's English-language website (http://www.sangju.go.kr/eng/).
(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul)
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