Charity give-away ends in fatal stampede

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The Independent Online

At least 18 women and girls waiting to get free flour died when a crowd surge swelled into stampede in the Pakistan city of Karachi today.

The accident came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a traditional time for charitable acts including giving away food.

The women were queuing in a small building with narrow passages. As more entered to get the flour, some began to panic and guards began using force to clear the place.

"Hundreds of women were pushing to enter into the small hall, and guards started beating us to get the place cleared," said one woman who ended up among the many wounded. "I fell down and was being crushed. My heart was missing beats and I thought I was dying."

Panicked relatives streamed into the city's hospital, while others brought limp bodies in the backs of trucks or in their arms. Some women wailed while laying on stretchers.

The flour give-away was organised by a private donor who was arrested for not giving police prior notice of the event.

"Poverty is on the rise, there is a desperation among people," local government official Javed Hanif said.

"Naturally, when people are frustrated, whenever they get such an opportunity, they try to grab the maximum."