Human Interest

11 killed in Karachi as stampedes hamper aid distribution in Pakistan

Islamabad, March 31 (EFE).- At least 11 people, including eight women and three children, were killed and over a dozen were injured on Friday in a stampede during cash distribution as part of religious donation during the holy month of Ramadan in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, even as stampedes have marred aid distribution efforts in the inflation-hit country and proved deadly.

“So far eight women and three children are confirmed dead and several others are injured,” Zahid Azeem, an official at the Edhi rescue service, told EFE.

According to the police, the incident happened at around 4:50 pm at a factory owned by a private company in the industrial area of Karachi.

“The management of a private company had invited families of its employees for zakaat (Islamic charity) distribution,” Sajid Amir, the Superintendent of Police in Karachi told EFE.

Zakaat is charity mandated by Islam that Muslims offer annually from their savings and some forms of property to the poor and needy during the holy month of Ramadan.

Local media reported, quoting eyewitnesses, that several people fell into a drain near the factory during the stampede. Some women were allegedly electrolocuted as a power-line had fallen onto the water body, causing more panic.

Amir said that 15 wounded people had been admitted to local hospitals, while police had launched a probe into the cause of the stampede and the high number of casualties.

Three officials from the factory management, including its manager and supervisor, have been arrested for negligence and mismanagement during the gathering, for which the authorities had not been informed in advance as per the norms.

Authorities said that hundreds of women and children had arrived to collect cash donations, and the company failed to make arrangements to handle the crowd.

The incident comes after at least five people were killed and many others injured in recent weeks in stampedes at different free wheat flour distribution centers in different cities under a government-backed scheme to help poor families.

Pakistan is reeling under the impact of high inflation, which touched a 50-year peak of 31.5 percent year-over-year in February.

Food prices tend to surge even more during the holy month of fasting, making it more difficult for people to cope with the inflation.

Several videos shared on social media showed desperate Pakistanis quarreling with each other to grab flour bags at the distribution centers.

Pakistanis have been hit hard by the soaring costs of basic goods, devaluation of local currency and the removal of subsidies from petroleum products and electricity bills by the authorities as part of the International Monetary Fund’s conditions to unlock the latest tranche of its financial support package of $6.5 billion approved in 2019. EFE


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