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LILONGWE (Reuters) - At least eight people, seven of whom were children, were killed in a stampede in Malawi during the southern African country's independence day celebrations at a stadium in the capital, police said on Thursday.

Police said the stampede occurred when spectators forced open the gates at the stadium where a football match was due to take place during celebrations marking 53 years of Malawi's independence from British rule.

At least 40 others were injured, police said.

"We can now confirm that eight people have died, that is seven children and one adult, and 40 people are injured," Inspector General of Police Lexan Kachama told Reuters.

"We expect the number to rise. They forced the gates open and a stampede ensued," said police in a statement.

An eyewitness told Reuters the stampede occurred as police used teargas to disperse the crowds that were scuffling to find seats in the stadium ahead of a football match.

"Police lost control," said William Phiri

Police were not immediately able to comment on the witness' account.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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