20 killed in Karachi stampede

Volunteers remove the body of a woman from the site after a stampede in Karachi on Monday. AP

Hundreds of women had gathered for the free rations that were being distributed by a trader to mark the holy month of Ramadan. Police and civil officials said the stampede occurred because adequate arrangements were not made for the orderly distribution of rations. Twenty people were killed in the stampede in the congested Khori Garden area in the old quarters of Karachi, SSP Abdullah Shaikh told reporters. He said Chaudhry Iftikhar Mohammad, the trader who had organised the distribution of rations, had been arrested.
Officials said most of the deaths were caused by suffocation. An emergency was declared in hospitals across the city. People rushed the dead and injured to hospitals in private vehicles and trucks before rescue workers reached the site.

“The women and children ran when unidentified men started baton-charging the people who had gathered for the rations,” a witness said. A number of women were injured when they slipped and fell from stairs leading to the building where the rations were being distributed. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed shock and grief at the loss of lives in the stampede.

Zardari took serious note of the “poor arrangements” made to manage crowds and said authorities should have taken measures to ensure that the distribution of rations was done smoothly and safely.

Zardari and Gilani ordered an immediate enquiry to fix responsibility for the incident. Gilani also directed officials to ensure that the injured were provided the best medical facilities. Many traders and charitable organisations distribute free food to the poor during Ramadan, the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, which is due to end next week.

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