LONDON – A man was stabbed and five other people were taken to hospital after thousands of customers caused a stampede at the midnight opening of a new IKEA (search) furniture store in north London, British authorities said Thursday. The Swedish retailer expressed regret at the incident.
The stabbing victim, a man in his 20s, was attacked at around 1:30 a.m. near the IKEA store, a spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police said, adding that his condition did not appear life-threatening.
The new IKEA warehouse in the Edmonton district had been due to operate 24 hours to mark the opening, but shut until further notice after some 40 minutes because of the unexpectedly large crowds.
Some 6,000 people flocked to the Swedish furniture store, which had been offering special bargains including leather sofas for $84.
Many customers abandoned their vehicles in the middle of a major road near the shop and walked to the store, causing severe traffic jams, police said. In addition to the stabbing victim, one patient was taken to hospital with chest pains and four others were treated for minor injuries, a London Ambulance Service (search) spokesman said.
IKEA said it had opened 12 other stores in Britain before and was stunned by the Edmonton stampede.
"IKEA could never have predicted and are genuinely overwhelmed at the outcome of the evening and the consequences that the opening of a home furnishing retailer has had," the retailer said in a statement.
The store was forced to close 41 minutes after it opened, an IKEA spokeswoman said.
Assistant Divisional Officer William Bird, of the London Fire Service, said he had never seen anything like the crush before.
"It was extraordinary and to a certain extent unexpected," Bird told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "There were crush injuries and people suffering from shock from the pushing and shoving."