At least 18 women were killed and nine injured on Monday in a stampede in Pakistan's southwestern port city of Karachi during a charity food hand-out, officials said.
The incident occurred in Karachi's Ghori Garden area, where many women had gathered to collect free flour and rice given away by a local businessman in respect of the holy month of Ramzan.
"We so far have 18 women dead and nine injured in the stampede," said Abdullah Sheikh, a senior police officer. He said most of the deaths were caused by suffocation following the stampede.
The dead and injured were brought to a crowded local hospital, where staff struggled to maintain peace and order as a large number of angry relatives also came to the hospital looking for their loved ones.
Various rich businessmen give alms during Ramzan, providing free foodstuff or cooked food for the needy in the evening for breaking their fast.
Deaths have occurred in the past at distribution points due to inadequate arrangements. A 45-year-old man died Sunday in the eastern city of Lahore while trying to get subsidized flour. Sheikh said the level of negligence in Karachi stampede should be investigated.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilnai ordered an immediate enquiry into the incident, while President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his "shock and grief," saying authorities should have taken measures to ensure the food distribution was safe.
Police detained the businessman, Chaudhry Iftikhar, who was distributing the free rations, for questioning.