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11 dead during stampede during Ramadan food distribution in Karachi



At least 11 women and children have been killed in a deadly stampede at a Ramadan food and cash distribution centre in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, police and rescue officials say, as the country struggles with surging food prices.

The stampede on Friday happened when hundreds of women and children panicked and started pushing each other to collect food outside a factory in a well-known industrial area, known as SITE or Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate.

Business owners during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan often hand out cash and food, especially to the poor.

As the stampede began, some women and children fell into an open drain, local police official Mughees Hashmi said.

Residents said a wall also collapsed near the drain, injuring and killing people.

The incident left the street that leads to the factory littered with wounded people and dead bodies.

Mr Hashmi said eight women and three children died and left several injured.

Murad Ali Shah, the top elected official in the Sindh, has ordered an investigation into the deadly stampede that resulted.

He also asked charities and business owners to inform police before organising such Ramadan handouts.

Shortly after the incident, police detained some of the factory’s employees for questioning.

READ ALSO:Pakistan court sentences man to death over blasphemy on Whatsapp

It is the deadliest stampede at a food distribution point since the start of fasting during Ramadan.

With the latest incident, the death toll from stampedes at free food centres across the country has risen to at least 21 since last week.

Mr Hashmi said the factory owner who organised the food distribution centre had not alerted police about the plan.

He said local police were unaware of the distribution, otherwise they might have deployed forces.

Friday’s incident comes a day after authorities ordered deployment of additional police at Ramadan food distribution centres to avoid dangerous overcrowding.

Cash-strapped Pakistan launched an initiative to distribute free flour among low-income families to ease the impact of record-breaking inflation and soaring poverty during the holy month.

While Friday’s incident was not part of that government scheme, crowds have swelled at the distribution centres in recent days.

There was no comment from the prime minister’s office on the deadly Karachi stampede.

“That is a provincial subject,” a government official said. “CM Sindh can respond,” the official added, referring to the region’s chief minister.

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