Bangladesh stampede for charity handouts kills 23

A STAMPEDE in central Bangladesh left 22 women and a child dead when hundreds of people stormed the home of a businessman for a charity handout during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, police said.

Momotaj Begum, mother of Rubi Akhtar, 12, who died in a stampede, cries at her home in the town of Mymensingh. Picture: AP

Another 30 were injured and rushed to a hospital in Mymensingh, a town 70 miles north of the capital, Dhaka, said police officer Kamrul Islam.

The crowd gathered outside the tobacco businessman’s home on a narrow side street around 4am and stormed in when the gates were opened to collect zakat – free clothing – Islam said. Twenty-two women and one child were killed, he said. Survivors said there were about 1,000 people, mostly elderly women, in front of the house.

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“Too many people came and they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get the clothes so they pushed each other. That’s why the stampede occurred,” said Islam.

Ambia Begum, 45, went with seven female relatives at dawn. One of them died in the stampede. “Oh Allah, why did I come here? Why?” she wailed.

The businessman distributes clothes every year ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan. During the Muslim holy month, wealthy Bangladeshis often donate clothing to the poor.

Authorities detained six people, including the businessman, who did not request police presence at his house for the distribution. Stampedes are common at religious places and during charity handouts in South Asian countries.

Television pictures showed scenes of carnage, with hundreds of blood-spattered sandals lying at the factory gate, images also showing women crying out in pain and fear as the crowd packed into a fenced area outside the family house.

“Most of the dead are poor and emaciated women,” Mymensingh police chief Moinul Haque said.

An injured woman said: “The moment the door opened, all the people all together rushed through the gate.

“Many fell on the ground and others ran over them, and they died.”

Police officer Main Ul Haque said: “We have found 20 bodies, and the number will increase as many of the bodies were taken by their family members.”

A doctor at the hospital where the dead and injured were taken said all the victims were women and children.

Farhad Hossain, at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital, confirmed that 23 bodies were in the hospital and said the cause of death was suffocation and stampede.

Authorities concerned have expressed “regret” over the loss of life and blamed the organisers of the charity handout.

In the wake of the tragedy the Bangladesh ministry of religious affairs has announced a donation of 10,000 taka (about £83) to each victim’s family.

Zakat clothes distributions is a common form of charity favoured by wealthy Bangladeshis during the holy month.

Every year some poor people die in stampedes in Bangladesh while collecting zakat clothes or money.