Pakistan food stampede kills many
Victims' relatives looked for bodies at a local hospital
At least 18 women and children have been killed in a stampede to get free flour in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, officials say.
BBC, 14 September 2009
Dozens more were injured in the crush, reports say.
The free flour was being handed out in a poor, congested neighbourhood of the city by a private group as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Pakistani TV showed distraught relatives arriving at a hospital where the injured had been taken.
"The deaths were caused by suffocation and the stampede in one of the most congested localities of Khori Garden," said Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmad, reports AFP news agency.
He said the man distributing the free flour had been detained because he had not given police prior notice.
The BBC's Arman Sabir in Karachi reports that the unexpected arrival of large numbers of people was a key cause of the tragedy.
Crowding and congestion at the location of the incident made it difficult for ambulances and rescue workers to get to the spot, he says.
Our correspondent adds that prices for staple goods have risen sharply in Karachi, and the government appears unable to provide relief to increasing numbers of people affected by poverty.
President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his shock at the loss of life and has ordered an immediate inquiry, the Pakistani APP news agency reported.
Hundreds of women were reported to have gathered at a building for the handout.
One teenager caught in the crush told Reuters news agency the queue had been pushing up some stairs when the lights failed and people started falling over each other in the darkness.
"As we were climbing up the stairs the power went off. I also fainted," said 13-year-old Seema Bibi.
Many Muslims hand out food to the poor during Ramadan, the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, which ends next week.