Johannesburg university stampede kills one

Media caption,
The BBC's Andrew Harding: "They started pushing as the gates were opened, there was a scrum" (Stampede footage courtesy of Adrian de Kock from The Star, South Africa)

One person has died after a stampede broke out among crowds of people trying to enrol at a university in the South African city of Johannesburg.

"There was a person that was deceased," University of Johannesburg (UJ) spokesman Herman Esterhuizen said.

The victim was said to be the mother of a prospective student.

More than 180,000 high school graduates are expected to be turned away from South Africa's nine top universities this year, said the Times newspaper.

It said about 74,000 students would fail to win a place at the University of Johannesburg alone.

Soaring unemployment has added to the pressure on place numbers, says the BBC's Andrew Harding in South Africa.

Tuesday's incident occurred as students queued for last-minute places at the university, registrar Marie Muller told eNews channel.

On Monday alone 5,000 registered in person for last minute places, and applicants waited through the night.

The stampede apparently happened just after the main gate was opened at 07:30 local time (05:30 GMT), emergency services spokeswoman Nana Radebe was quoted as saying.

The dead woman had suffered severe head and chest trauma, reports say.

Two people are also said to have been seriously injured.

'People fell'

Wilson Matiba was present when the stampede occurred.

"Things got out of hand," he said, according to the Mail & Guardian Online.

"We rushed the gates and people fell. We couldn't stop," said Mr Matiba, who was trying to enrol for a BSc degree in Zoology.

Mr Matiba said prospective students were desperate and felt left without any alternative other than storming the entrance.

"We need education. We need to register. We needed to get inside," he said.

An eyewitness who spoke to BBC News said the numbers queuing were especially high because the queue combined new applicants and students returning for further study.

The eyewitness - who did not want to be named - said people had travelled to the university from around the country, many making overnight journeys.

She said there had been a similar crush on Monday, and that when it started to happen again on Tuesday "we just ran away because we knew we we were going to get hurt".

The University of Johannesburg, which describes itself as "one of the largest, multi-campus, residential universities in South Africa", was created when several institutions merged in 2005.

It is reported to be one of few which accept last-minute applications in January, after high-school final exams are released and some students realise they are eligible for university.

It used an SMS campaign to alert students to the possibility of last-minute places and on Monday, the normally quiet streets around the university's Bunting Road campus entrance were packed with traffic and a kilometre-long line of applicants had formed at the main gate.

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