According to police, 31 people were killed and seven others injured in a stampede at a southern Nigerian church charity event. This shocking development occurred at a program meant to provide hope for the poor. Witnesses said that the victims included a pregnant woman, and many children.

According to Grace Iringe Koko, a spokeswoman for the police, the stampede at the Kings Assembly Pentecostal Church in Rivers state was caused by people who attended the annual “Shop for Free” charity event.

These events are quite common in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. According to statistics, more than 80 million people in Nigeria live in poverty.

Iringe-Koko stated that although Saturday’s charity program was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., many people arrived in line as early as 5 am to ensure their spot. She said that the gate had been opened accidentally, causing a stampede.

Godwin Tepikor, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, stated that first responders were able evacuate the bodies of the victims and transport them to the morgue. The area was cordoned off by security forces.

Later, dozens of residents flooded the scene to mourn the deceased and offer any assistance to emergency workers. Some of the wounded were treated by emergency workers and doctors as they lay on the ground. The scene was captured on video and showed the clothes, shoes, and other items intended for beneficiaries.

Daniel, a witness who identified himself only as Daniel, stated that “there were so many kids” among the dead. According to the AP, five of the deceased children belonged to one mother. He also said that a pregnant woman lost her life.

Christopher Eze, a witness, said that some church members were attacked by relatives of victims following the stampede. The church refused to comment.

According to the police spokesperson, the seven injured were receiving treatment.

While authorities investigate the cause of the stampede, the “Shop for Free!” event was temporarily suspended.

Similar stampedes have occurred in Nigeria in the past.

In 2013, 24 people died in an overcrowded church in the southeast state of Anambra. A crowd of about 16 people was killed during a screening in Abuja for government jobs.

Hilary Uguru, an Associated Press journalist, was a contributor.