At least 36 dead in Bangladesh stampede


A stampede killed at least 36 people in northern Bangladesh today, most of them women and children.

Several hundred poor people had been trying to force their way into the grounds of a rich businessman who was giving away clothes and money ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, a local journalist quoted a Red Crescent official as saying.

A wall and an iron gate collapsed, triggering the stampede.

"Police and relatives of the victims recovered 36 bodies and took 15 others to hospital after the incident," police Sub-inspector Mr Golam Minhaz said.

The incident happened in Gaibandha, a town 210 miles north of the capital, Dhaka.

Police said two people from the businessman's household had been arrested but gave no details.

Prime Minister Mr Begum Khaleda Zia, who is visiting Saudi Arabia, has expressed deep shock over the loss of life and sent her condolences to the victims' families. Officials said she has also ordered an investigation.

Gifts from rich to poor are traditional ahead of the Eid festival, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and will be celebrated late this week.

A similar stampede in 1989 in the southeastern city of Chittagong killed 36.