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54 Crushed To Death In Belarus

At least 54 people were crushed to death under an avalanche of bodies when hundreds stampeded from a beer festival into an underground railway station to escape a storm in the Belarussian capital, officials said Monday.

CBS News Correspondent David Hawkins reports that most of the victims were teen-agers, many of them young women in high-heeled shoes who slipped on the rain-slicked marble steps and fell under the feet of crowds, where they were trampled to death.

Two policemen who tried to control the crowd also were killed.

Monday, grief-stricken relatives gathered at the hospitals where the dead and injured were taken.

Officials said 150 people were injured, many critically, in the crush late on Sunday in Minsk when people attending the festival sought refuge from rain and lightning. Interior Minister Yuri Sivakov said many in the crush had been drunk.

"About 300 people were lying here - one layer, another one," a policeman told a visibly shocked President Alexander Lukashenko during a televised visit to the scene, a metro station underpass with steps leading down.

"We were carrying out the first layer of people and they were still alive. In the second one were the dead and injured."

Sivakov said most of the dead were between 14 and 18 years old and were crushed or suffocated. Just 10-15 minutes passed between the onset of the downpour and the tragedy.

Belarussian television showed distraught relatives at a hospital shouting names of loved ones to a policeman. Others anxiously scanned pictures of the dead pinned at a local morgue.

Officials said 78 people were still in the hospital, 37 in critical condition.

As people laid flowers at the station, Lukashenko declared two days of national mourning. The first funerals will be held on Tuesday. Television and radio stations broadcast only news and classical music.

"It's a frightening tragedy," Lukashenko said. "For Belarus it is something unreal. It is a great regret mainly girls died." He called a special panel to investigate the tragedy.

Sivakov said on local television up to 2,500 people had been attending the festival. Police earlier put the crowd at 10,000.

"In this situation doing anything to avert the tragedy was practically impossible," Sivakov said. He said many in the crowd were drunk and few were carrying identification documents. Officials said they believed many were from outlying towns.

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