ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – Raucous celebrations after Algeria qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals were linked to the deaths of 12 people and some 240 injured, authorities reported Wednesday, as soccer-mad fans poured into the streets and revelers raced their cars and honked.
Women ululated in joy and people waved Algerian flags in victory after the North African country defeated Burkina Faso on Tuesday night.
In a country where political rallies are ill-attended without some kind of financial incentive, nothing gets people into the streets like a soccer championship, with celebrations for ordinary club championships going on well into the night in some neighborhoods.
Most of the injuries and deaths were young men in traffic accidents, according to emergency services, typically from speeding around crowded city streets or the rain-slicked winding roads in the mountains.
Five fans were killed when their van slid off the road into a ravine in the mountain town of Bejaia, east of Algiers, while four others died in the southern city of Biskra when two trucks collided, according to a statement from emergency services.
In Bouira, southeast of the capital, a vehicle carrying a family skidded off the road, killing a 10-year-old. Eight other passengers, including four children between the ages of 3 and 8, were also injured, said the state news agency.
The remaining two deaths occurred in the towns of Tipaza and M'Sila. Much of the north of the country was blanketed with heavy rains Tuesday, exacerbating the dangers of driving.
It is the country's fourth trip to the World Cup and follows closely on its 2010 appearance in South Africa.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and other members of the government lunched with the victorious team on Wednesday. The absence of ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was noted as another sign of his increasing infirmity following a stroke in April.
The 76-year-old president was nominated by his party Saturday to run for a fourth term.