At least 25 people were killed and dozens more others injured Friday in a stampede during a charity clothing giveaway in northern Bangladesh, officials said.
The dead included 21 women and two children, according to police in the northern town of Mymensingh. Officials warned that the death toll could rise.
The stampede occurred around 5 a.m. local time as more than 1,000 mostly poor people lined up outside the home of a local businessman who had announced the clothing giveaway. Many well-off Bangladeshis distribute zakat, or charity, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
After dawn prayers, the gates at Mohammed Shamim’s house were opened for the clothing distribution and hundreds stormed in, residents said.
At one point, neighbors said, the house’s main gate collapsed due to the rush of people, leaving at least 14 dead.
Ambia Begum, 50, who had come to collect clothes, told reporters that Shamim’s employees struck people in the crowd with batons and “beat us up severely.”
Many victims were ferried by cycle rickshaws to a nearby hospital. Television images showed relatives of victims rushing through the hospital entrance and corridors, some cradling severely wounded bodies of loved ones in their arms.
Farhad Hossain, a physician at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital, where victims were being treated, said some had suffocated in the stampede.
“Most of the dead are poor and emaciated women,” said Mymensingh’s police superintendent, Moinul Haque. He said organizers of the charity giveaway did not inform police about the event.
Local police announced an investigation into the incident and said that eight people, including Shamim, had been held for questioning.
Federal and local officials announced compensation of 10,000 Bangladeshi taka, or about $125, for each victim’s family.
The annual Ramadan charity events have sparked several deadly stampedes in this impoverished South Asian nation. About 40 people were killed in a similar stampede at a garment factory in the northern city of Tangail in 2002.
Kader is a special correspondent.