Six people fall unconscious after stampede at JDC charity bazaar

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Monday, 06 June 2016

Six people fell unconscious because of overcrowding and stampede at the Bazaar-i-Meherban orga­nised by the Jaffaria Disaster Cell at the Expo Centre’s Hall No 2 as around 200,000 people entered the hall on Sunday. As a result of being pushed around and looking for space to breath, six people lost consciousness and suffered minor injuries according to volunteers of the Edhi Foundation and the JDC.

The Bazaar-i-Meherban is an annual fair organised by the JDC usually before the month of Ramazan where rations and household items and wedding dresses are given free of cost to all people. Those wanting to get household items or in need of ration are required to get a token which is usually given near the venue where the fair is held.

This was the second such Bazaar organised by the JDC this year. Earlier, a similar bazaar was set up near Numaish Chowrangi about three months ago and the programme had gone well, according to JDC spokesperson Wasim Raza.

Since the city had earlier witnessed casualties because of stampede at ration distribution centres, especially the Sept 2009 incident in Khori Garden where 20 women lost their lives while trying to get a bag of wheat, authorities as well as families of those at the centre got panicked after hearing reports of a stampede at the Expo Centre.

Syed Abid Ali Pasha, Secu­­rity Supervisor at the Expo Centre’s Gate No 2, said that the Bazaar-i-Meherban began around 9.30am on Sunday and people had already started queuing up outside the Gate No 2 and it was supposed to end around 3pm.

According to Mr Pasha, by 1.30pm a crowd of people standing outside the gate with their tokens in hand grew impatient due to scorching heat and demanded to be let in, which security guards at the gate refused to do without speaking to JDC organisers. He said that the guards eventually let a few people in.

“After seeing that hundreds of people have thronged the gate and pushing it and some of them have even started climbing, it was impossible for our six security men posted at the gate to stop them so we, without creating panic, opened the gates,” he said. “Soon people began pushing each other and entered Hall No 2 where household items were displayed,” Mohammad Mushtaq, another guard, said.

Mr Pasha said that by 1:45pm, he had called the police and Rangers to help control the crowd and prevent the stampede as he had feared some casualties. This helped disperse the crowd which had gathered at the Hall No 2. What was left after that was slippers, broken crockery and toppled chairs.

JDC spokesperson Wasim Raza said that they usually kept an expected number of people in mind which was around 25,000, but this time “we gave tokens to around 200,000 people”. He said that the JDC had decided to allow 200 to 300 people in a group to Hall No 2 and then bring them out after they have done shopping and repeat the process until everyone got household items.

He blamed Expo Centre administration for bypassing clear instructions and allowing entry at once of a large number of people to the hall which led to the overcrowding and stampede. “It looked like a battleground,” said Sajjad Zaidi, who was assigned to set up stalls a day before and who, around 4pm, was removing the remaining stalls amidst the debris of paper, slippers and overturned tables. “People didn’t wait at all and kept pushing away to get ahead. This hall, like many others at the Expo Centre, has a central air cooling system, but it stopped working because of over­crowding,” he said.

As a result of overcrowding in the hall and breakdown of the cooling system six people lost consciousness, according to Edhi Foundation’s spokesperson Anwer Kazmi.

He said that Edhi volunteers took two men to the Liaquat National Hospital around 2pm and four others were taken care of by JDC ambulances parked near the Gate No 2.

The JDC organisers blamed the Expo Centre administration for the unfortunate incident.

Mr Pasha, however, disagreed with the JDC’s statement and said “we did everything that we could have, but inviting too many people anyway needs bigger security and we were not prepared for it”.

The JDC officials also opined that its a conspiracy against the organization hatched by Mufti Naeem to trial the organization and alleged that some miscreants have created stampede with proper plan to sabotage the event .

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