42 killed in panic at Mexican church


MEXICO CITY -- At least 42 people died and 30 were injured yesterday as panic overtook Ash Wednesday worshipers at a crowded Roman Catholic church 30 miles southwest of here, the Red Cross reported.

Nicanor Mercado Velazquez, a radio dispatcher for the Red Cross, said that the death toll could go has high as 50 or 60.

A spokesman for the state of Mexico said the tragedy occurred as thousands of worshipers attempted to push their way into the church in Chalma, crushing the victims in their haste. Panic ensued when worshipers in the front tried to break free, causing more injuries and deaths, he said.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 worshipers, many of them Indians, had gone to the hilltop church, El Senor de Chalma, anticipating its major celebration tomorrow, the first Friday in Lent.

Tomorrow's celebration is combined with Indian dances seeking favors from the church's patron, a Black Christ that appeared in a local cave two years after Augustinian Fathers came to Chalma in 1537.

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