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Tragic stampede at Karachi factory kills 12 during Ramadan charity

1 April: A private company in Karachi, Pakistan, was giving out food and cash to the poor as part of its Ramadan charity on Friday, when a crowd of women and children became unruly and caused a deadly stampede, killing 12 people, according to police and rescue officials.

The incident took place outside the F.K. Dyeing factory in the SITE industrial area, where hundreds of women and children had gathered to receive the aid. The company had invited the families of its employees for the distribution of Zakat, a form of obligatory alms-giving in Islam.

Police said the company staff had closed the doors of the factory, fearing a large crowd, and had not made any arrangements for a queue or informed the local police about the activity. Some women and children fell into an open drain and a wall collapsed near it, as the crowd panicked and pushed each other.

Police Surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed said 11 people — eight women and three children — were among the dead. She said nine bodies were brought to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and two were brought to Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital. Later, another woman died, raising the death toll to 12, said Deputy Inspector General of Police Irfan Ali Baloch. The bodies were shifted to an Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth.

Baloch said the factory owner, identified as Zulfiqar, would be arrested soon. He said the factory had been distributing alms for three days during Ramadan, a month of fasting and charity for Muslims. He said between 400 and 500 people had shown up on Friday.

The tragedy highlights the plight of the poor in Pakistan, who are struggling with rising food prices amid the coronavirus pandemic. It also raises questions about the safety and regulation of such charitable activities during Ramadan. Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh province, has ordered an investigation into the incident and asked charities and business owners to inform police before organising such handouts.

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