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30 killed, 500 injured in Paraguay stadium collapse

stadium collapse graphic September 5, 1997
Web posted at: 10:30 a.m. EDT

CIUDAD DEL ESTE, Paraguay (CNN) -- Strong winds leveled a crowded stadium in a Paraguayan border town Thursday night, killing about 30 people and injuring 500.

Officials fear the death toll could rise. About 3,000 people were attending a political rally when winds ripped off the roof and a wall of the covered stadium in Ciudad del Este, 185 miles (296 km) east of capital Asuncion.

The damaged roof and wall were makeshift structures that were built about a week ago with no foundations, media reports said.

"This is the worst case ever of its kind in Paraguay. Not even the floods have brought this toll of dead and injured," Public Health Minister Andres Vidovich said in the capital, Asuncion, briefing reporters on the number of victims.

The mayor of Ciudad del Este, Juan Carlos Barreto, said at least 32 people were killed, including four police officers and three children, and called for three days of mourning.

The majority of the injured were taken to hospitals across the border in the larger Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu. The most seriously injured were being flown to Asuncion.

Leaders of a faction of the ruling Colorado party, which called the rally ahead of party primaries Sunday, had considered calling the event off due to bad weather, but failed to do so, according to media reports.

The storm caused a citywide power outage, hampering early rescue efforts. Electricity has since been restored.

In wake of the disaster, President Juan Carlos Wasmosy called off Sunday's primaries, local television reported.

Ciudad del Este is located along the Parana River on the border with Argentina and Brazil.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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