Chennai relief camp stampede kills 45
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Chennai relief camp stampede kills 45

The incident occurred in the wee hours after flood-hit people started scurrying away for safety following downpour.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2005 22:20 IST

At least 45 people, mostly women, were killed and more than 50 injured on Sunday in a stampede for food coupons at a flood relief camp in Chennai, police said.

More than 3,000 people affected by floods had gathered at a government school to collect food coupons early on Sunday, an official said.

"The toll has now risen to 45. Around 50 people are injured. Around 30 people have been taken to the hospital, of which a few are very seriously injured," a police official informed.

"There may be more casulties."

The relief centre was scheduled to open at 7.30 am, but people gathered hours earlier fearing there would not be enough coupons to go round.

"Suddenly it started raining heavily and there was a mad scramble to get in. As the lock on the main door snapped, those in the front got crushed by the jostling crowd behind them," said witness Dhanalakshmi, who uses only one name.

Most of the victims were women, police said. Heavy rain was hampering rescue work.

Two of the city's main hospitals, Government and Royapettah, where the injured have been taken, were swamped by policemen and angry relatives.

Women wailed in the corridor of the Government General Hospital while policemen taking the dead to the morgue looked shaken.

At the site of the stampede one person recounted a lucky escape.

"I came here to get coupons for my family as my daughter had just given birth to a baby. I was lucky that I got delayed because of the rains," said Mangamma, who had just reached the spot when the stampede happened.

The injured and relatives of the dead were enraged.

"The authorities should have taken more measures. This is the second such incident in two months," said Murugesan at the Government General Hospital to see his injured wife.

It was the second stampede since the government opened around 150 relief centres to distribute food to thousands of people after heavy rains lashed the region in October, causing floods that destroyed homes.

Last month, six people were crushed to death as a crowd rushed to collect Rs 2,000 as cash, food and clothes being distributed by the authorities.

Officials, however, pleaded helplessness.

"What could we have done if people started lining up earlier? Four policemen who were there at the time were enough to man the crowd. After all, this is not a riot situation," said relief worker Rajendran.

First Published: Dec 18, 2005 08:37 IST