PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — About 100,000 South African mourners waited in line on Friday to view the body of Nelson Mandela, which was lying in state for the third and final day, but most were likely to be turned away before officials remove the casket in the late afternoon.
In one waiting area in Pretoria, people pushed open a gate that the police had closed, shouting that they wanted to see Mandela. Some fell to the ground as the crowd surged, and several were slightly injured. The government said some 92,000 people had gathered by late morning, but closed nearby parking facilities around midday because of the huge crowds.
“It’s almost impossible that all of them will go through,” government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said. “The volumes are just huge.”
She said up to 24,000 were able to view Mandela’s casket on Thursday, meaning most of those still waiting on Friday were unlikely to have the chance to see his body. Williams said there was no possibility of extending viewing hours past 5 p.m. because Mandela’s family had requested that the body not be transported after dark.
Organizers handed out water to the crowds, and moved up elderly people and women with children to spare them a longer wait.
Some of those who did view the body at the Union Buildings, a century-old government complex overlooking the city, wept at the sight of the revered anti-apartheid leader in a coffin.
Mourner Elizabeth Leening said she got up at 3 a.m. and headed toward the Union Buildings an hour later to pay her last respects to Mandela.
“We have been standing in the queue now for four hours to see Madiba,” she said, using Mandela’s clan name as a sign of affection and respect.
Mandela, who was jailed for 27 years during white rule and later became president, died Dec. 5 in his Johannesburg home after a long illness at the age of 95. From Pretoria, his body will be flown to his rural hometown of Qunu in the south-east of the country for a state funeral service and burial on Sunday.
U.S. civil rights campaigner Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was in Cape Town in 1990 when Mandela was released from prison, also walked past Mandela’s casket, with photos showing him comforting a woman there who was overcome by emotion.
President Jacob Zuma’s office said he had authorized the deployment of 11,900 military servicemen to assist police in maintaining order during the funeral service.