Police say 31 people, including children, died in a mass panic just before the start of a church event in Nigeria. Seven others were injured in the incident in the city of Port Harcourt in the south of the country on Saturday morning, the police confirmed to the German Press Agency.

Police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko told the German Press Agency that the mass panic arose from a large crowd that had come to receive free food donations. According to initial reports, a crowd just before the start of the event could have triggered the stampede, she said.

Numerous participants came together for the event, reported the newspaper “Punch”. Some people had been there since Friday, it said. When a small gate was opened, the crowd may have tried to gain entry. The dead and injured were reportedly taken to the nearby Port Harcourt military hospital.

At the event, Kings Assembly Church wanted to distribute gifts and food to the poor. She had specially invited to the larger Polo Club in order to be able to accommodate the expected number of visitors.