A fire erupted at a popular nightclub in Yaounde, Cameroon's capital, setting off explosions and killing at least 17 people, government officials said Sunday.
The tragedy comes as the central African country hosts thousands of soccer players, fans and match officials from across the continent for the month-long African Football Cup of Nations tournament.
A government statement said the fire erupted at the Livs Nightclub in the capital's Bastos neighborhood, setting off a series of explosions. Workers said it was a short-circuit that customers initially thought was a fireworks show. The explosions went off once the blaze spread to a place where cooking gas was being stored, causing panic, the workers said.
The government said in addition to the deaths, some people were injured and taken to the hospital.
“We are still at the level of investigations to find out the names and nationalities of the dead and the wounded," said government spokesman Rene Emmanuel Sadi.
In a statement, Cameroonian President Paul Biya called for calm and assured players and fans of their safety.
The championship, featuring teams from 24 countries, originally was scheduled for 2021 but then was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.