Twenty people were killed and a dozen others injured in a stampede during a church meeting in the northern Tanzanian city of Moshi, the government said on Sunday.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the stampede, which took place on Saturday. But it occurred when church faithful were being ushered through an exit so that they could walk on “anointed oil,” according to a government spokesman.
Hundreds of worshipers were attending a prayer meeting led by Boniface Mwamposa, a popular preacher who leads the Arise and Shine Ministry Tanzania.
Local news outlets reported that Mr. Mwamposa had flown to the city of Dar es Salaam, on the Tanzanian coast, after the stampede to lead a prayer service at another branch of his church.
But Interior Minister George Simbachawene said that Mr. Mwamposa had been arrested after the deaths. The charges against him were not immediately revealed.
Mr. Simbachawen accused the church of not taking sufficient precautions and of violating the terms of its permit for the meeting, which ran two hours later than planned. He also said the government would strengthening the requirements needed to register as a church.
“The incident took place at night and there were many people, so there is a possibility that more casualties could emerge,” he told Reuters.
A witness who was at the service, Peter Kilewo, told reporters that the scene was “horrible” and that people were “trampled on mercilessly, jostling each other with elbows.”
The police said they had begun an investigation.
There has been a rise in the number of pastors who claim they can perform “miracle cures” and eradicate poverty in Africa in recent years. Preachers who spread what they call the “prosperity gospel” have been involved in financial scams and money laundering schemes, as well as other stampedes.
Last year, three people were killed in a stampede at a church in Pretoria, South Africa, during a service led by Shepherd Bushiri, Africa’s wealthiest preacher. He was charged with money laundering and fraud after accusations that he had smuggled cases of money out of South Africa on his private jet in February 2019.
Last year, a church building in eastern South Africa partly collapsed at the start of the Easter weekend, killing at least 13 people and injuring 16 others during heavy rainfall that caused flooding, power outages and structural damage.
SOURCE: The Associated Press