Relatives and survivors mourn after the onslaught at the stadium in Indonesia hospital
Etik sat cross-legged on the hospital floor, anxiously waiting for her daughter to regain consciousness after being involved in one of the deadliest stadium disasters in world football history.
“It was her first time (at a game),” Etik said, fighting back tears outside the intensive care unit at Saiful Anwar Hospital in central eastern Indonesia’s city of Malang.
Her 21-year-old daughter Dian Puspita was one of the onlookers who was close to death after police fired tear gas at crowded stands to quell a turf invasion, causing panicked fans to rush for the exit.
The ensuing stampede and chaos left at least 125 dead and more than 300 injured.
Etik – who, like many Indonesians, has only one name – became concerned when her daughter failed to return home.
“I called her but she didn’t answer,” she said.
She rushed to the hospital after Puspita’s friend told her what had happened and immediately went to the emergency room to see her daughter, who was lying on a bed with a broken shoulder and a red and swollen face.
“I didn’t think that would happen,” said Etik, who waited 12 hours in the hospital on Sunday.
Angry fans of Arema football club had invaded the pitch following the loss to their bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya, prompting the widely criticized police response.
At the same hospital, 20-year-old Irgi Firdianah recalls rescuing Puspita from waves of onlookers as both struggled to survive the onslaught.
“It was full of smoke. I couldn’t see anything,” he said, tears streaming down his face.
Firdianah said the tear gas appeared to be directed at spectators and that as people panicked he was pushed and “could not move” when he was caught in the scrum trying to flee the stadium.
His hands were bruised from the trampling, but he managed to grab Puspita and carry her out of the arena.
“I continued to hold her, not knowing her condition,” he said, his voice dropping to a low murmur as he described the harrowing experience.
– ‘Be strong’ –
Earlier in the day, chaos engulfed the hospital as victims tumbled in, and the city’s other hospitals were overwhelmed by the influx of dead and injured.
Many died from lack of oxygen after being pushed, pulled and kicked in the chaos of the crowd.
The Indonesian government has urged the country’s police to identify and punish those responsible for the tragedy.
As night fell, the hustle and bustle in the hospital died down. Relatives lay on mats and covered themselves with blankets to rest outside the facility, eagerly awaiting news from their loved ones.
Some people put their heads in their hands and prayed for the survival of their loved ones. Others tried to sleep on hospital benches.
Periodically, a megaphone called out a name, a signal for the person’s loved ones to enter the hospital and hear the good – or bad – news.
The last time Etik was allowed to see her daughter, she held her hands and whispered a message to her that she hoped wouldn’t be the last she shared with her daughter.
“You must be strong and wake up soon,” she told her.