Chaos - and a stabbing - as opening superstore swamped

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The Independent Online

A man was stabbed and would-be bargain-hunters suffered heat exhaustion as a crushing crowd of thousands forced a flagship Ikea superstore to close on opening night.

Cars were abandoned on the roadside and customers were crushed in the chaos which ensued after the furniture store in north London launched at midnight.

The new outlet in Edmonton, the biggest Ikea in England, was due to trade for a full 24 hours, but shut within 40 minutes after an "unforeseen volume of customers" descended in the early hours.

Up to 6,000 people flocked to the opening of the store, which was touting cut-price offers throughout the 24-hour opening, including a three-seater leather sofa for £45 until 3am and a double bed frame for £30 between 3am and 8am.

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said today that nine ambulances, one rapid response car, four officers and an emergency control vehicle were sent to the scene, following reports of crushing outside the store.

He added: "Six adult patients were treated and taken to hospital, three each to North Middlesex and Whipps Cross hospitals. Of these, one man had been stabbed and another patient was experiencing chest pains. The four other people were understood to have sustained a range of minor injuries."

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard confirmed a man in his 20s was stabbed in the area - not the store - at about 1.30am today. She added: "His condition is described as stable, and not thought to be life-threatening."

She said earlier many people had abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the A406 (north circular), making their way to the store on foot, causing severe traffic difficulties.

In a statement this morning, an Ikea spokeswoman said the company was "deeply shocked, upset and concerned" at what had happened.

She said the store opened for the one-off 24-hour spectacular at 00.01am and was forced to close at 00.42am, with "unprecedented" crowd numbers estimated at between 5,000 to 6,000.

She added: "In the planning process prior to the launch of the new store Ikea Edmonton had direct liaison with the police and Enfield council. On the evening traffic management, crowd control and the emergency services were in place.

"However at 00.01am, the official time of opening, people outside of the controlled queue surged forward, causing a crush at the entrance to the store."

She said police had confirmed a number of injuries, with the stabbing occurring "off Ikea premises" in a separate incident.

She added: "Ikea are deeply shocked, upset and concerned at what occurred. Ikea take the safety and security of its customers and employees very seriously at all times.

"Having opened 12 stores prior to Edmonton in the UK, 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.

"Under the current circumstances, Ikea Edmonton will remain closed until further notice. All advertised opening offers have been withdrawn. Ikea would like to express their concern and regret at what has happened at the opening of our new store."

Assistant Divisional Officer William Bird, of the London Fire Service, said: "It was extraordinary and to a certain extent unexpected. I have certainly not attended anything like this before."

"There were crush injuries and people suffering from shock from the pushing and shoving," he said. Cars abandoned on main roads around the store had caused severe congestion, making it difficult for emergency crews to get through.