Thousands of people attended the colorful Epiphany celebration known as Timkat in the northern city of Gondar.
“Ten people have lost their lives,” the Ethiopian Press Agency quoted the city’s police chief, Ayalew Teklu, as saying. “Thirteen people have sustained serious injuries, including four members of the security services.”
Ashenafi Tazebew with Gondar University Hospital said more than 250 people had received medical care. Some 80 people remained at the hospital, Ashenafi said.
The collapse occurred inside the Emperor Fasilides Bath in the city where several thousand Ethiopians and tourists attended the celebration commemorating the baptism of Jesus.
The Ethiopian News Agency reported that more than 15,000 foreigners attended the event in Gondar. UNESCO late last year added Ethiopia’s Epiphany festivities to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which attracted more attendees.
The BBC quoted a senior doctor at the University of Gondar Hospital who said: “I can tell you up to now we have 10 dead. The number of injured is 100 or even 150”.
Timket is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, as told in the Bible. Timket is regarded as the celebration of epiphany.
The two-day celebrations bring together the young and old and people from different economic backgrounds.
The first day of Timket is called Ketera. On this day, worshippers take a walk with a replica of the Biblical ark of the covenant wrapped in a manner to emphasize its religious importance.
The walk culminates in convergence at the celebration grounds.
On the second day, the clergy of the Orthodox Church perform dances and songs from dawn. They also bless the water source and sprinkle it on worshippers.