TURIN, Italy: More than 1,500 people were injured, three seriously, after a bomb scare triggered a stampede among Juventus fans watching the Champions League final in Turin, local authorities said Sunday.
In an update on Saturday’s dramatic events in a square packed with supporters watching the Cardiff match on a giant screen, the local prefecture said 1,527 had been treated for mainly minor injuries.
Three people were in a serious but not life-threatening condition, including a young boy. Local media described him as a seven-year-old and said he was in a coma with serious chest injuries after being trampled in the crush.
AFP reporters who witnessed the scenes said the panic seemed to have been triggered by fireworks, followed by one or more people shouting that a bomb had exploded — a notion that quickly filtered through the crowd.
The incident compounded a miserable night for fans of Turin-based Juventus, who lost the final 4-1 to Real Madrid.
It also underlined the impact recent acts of terror are having on a jittery public across Europe, and the dilemmas now faced by organisers of any mass gathering of people following the Bataclan, Paris and Manchester concert attacks.
“This is a city that lives with anxiety and panic is something that is very difficult to control,” said Turin Prefect Renato Saccone.
The scare in Turin came just minutes before another deadly attack unfolded in London with assailants driving a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then going on a stabbing spree before being shot dead by police.
“Even if there have been no Islamist attacks in Italy, the panic of last night shows they are achieving their objectives even here,” said Roberto Calderoli, a Senator for the Northern League.
Several thousand fans had turned up to watch the match in the Piazza San Carlo in downtown Turin.
As fear took hold, a rush towards exit points quickly accelerated and the square emptied so quickly it was left strewn with hundreds of shoes ripped off people’s feet as they ran.
The square was still dotted with shoes, clothes, bags and patches of blood on Sunday morning. The high number of cuts was blamed on beer in glass bottles having been freely available before and during the match from unlicensed vendors.
“We heard a noise, then there was a movement of people like a wave and everyone started falling over each other,” said Luca, one of the fans caught up in the drama.
“I have got blood on me from the people who fell on top of me, people were screaming, jumping over each other,” he told AFPTV. “It was really awful — we really thought it was Manchester again.”
Some of the injuries occurred after a railing around the entrance to an underground car park beneath the square gave way under the weight of the crush, causing some of those injured to fall up to two metres (nearly seven feet) onto tarmac.
Local media cited older Juventus supporters present as saying the panic had evoked painful memories of the 1985 Heysel disaster, in which 39 mostly Italian fans died when they were crushed by a collapsing wall before the start of that year’s European Cup final, against Liverpool.
Another fan, Giulio, said he had been knocked to the ground. “Everyone just trampled over me. I got separated from all my friends. I don’t have the slightest idea what happened.”
Fellow supporter Filippo took refuge in a restaurant in a neighbouring square. “They gave us something to drink and we stayed there until it was calm outside and we went back to find the shoe my daughter had lost.”
“It was very stressful,” added Gaetan. “With everything that is going on nowadays, it’s only to be expected. We just panicked and tried to get out of there.”