A stampede in Ghana on Sunday left four people dead after thousands swarmed a church said to be offering holy water with healing properties.
"All of us were caught by surprise. No one knew the crowd will be so huge," police spokesman Freeman Tetteh said, according to BBC News. "The church was also caught by surprise ... Nobody can apportion blame [at this stage]."
The stampede occurred at the Ghana branch of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ghana Business News reported. The head pastor of the church, Prophet T. B. Joshua, has been sending out repackaged holy water to branches of the church across the globe, an initiative he announced earlier in May. A number of church members in Accra, the capital, had lined up since Saturday night in hopes of gaining access to the anointed water, and the church was supposedly at full capacity by 8: 30 p.m.
The stampede the following morning claimed the lives of three men and one woman, while another 20 were said to be seriously injured and rushed to hospitals.
Said to be a faith healer, Prophet T. B. Joshua is a popular televangelist in Africa, and the Synagogue Church of All Nations runs a Christian television station called Emmanuel TV.
Police reported that the stampede was instigated on Sunday when those who could not get inside the church on time pushed back against police personnel. The Accra Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police Christian Tetteh Yohuno, revealed that a number of officers had been requested to mount barricades to guide worshippers to the church.
"We went there as early as four," said one worshipper, Gertrude Sumbamala, who suffered a broken leg.
"People from the back, they pushed ... and they fell on us. So we were battered by a lot of forces," Sumbamala continued, according to New Vision.
The planned church service for 9 a.m. on Sunday was canceled following the stampede. The Rev. Sam Mc-Canaan, a minister for the church, explained that normal Sunday services attract nearly 15,000 people, but almost 45,000 had lined up for the opportunity to receive holy water from Prophet T. B. Joshua.
"We are very devastated; it is very unfortunate and we are very sorry. We have to do a thorough work next time to make sure it does not happen again," Mc-Canaan said.
He added that despite the announcement of the repackaged anointed water, the church had planned for a normal service and not a mass revival event.
The minister praised police efforts to try and control the crowd, saying they "would have witnessed a disaster of alarming proportions" if it wasn't for them.
According to the CIA World Factbook, 71.2 percent of Ghana's population is Christian – with 28.3 percent identifying as Pentecostal or Charismatic; 18.4 percent, Protestant; 13.1 percent Catholic; and 11.4 percent, other Christian denominations.