Stampede for Free Clothes Leaves at Least 23 Dead
Dozens injured after clothing giveaway at Bangladesh factory
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2015 8:33 AM CDT
An elderly woman grieves next to bodies at a hospital in the town of Mymensingh, Bangladesh, today.   (AP Photo/Jahangir Kabir Jewel)

(Newser) – What should have been a generous charity event turned deadly today when hundreds of people stormed a free clothing giveaway, leaving at least 23 dead and dozens injured in Bangladesh, the AP reports. A senior police official says that toll could rise, since "some people had taken the bodies of their relatives before police arrived," AFP reports. Based on witness and police reports cited in the AP and BBC, between 1,000 and 1,500 people had gathered before sunrise outside of where the handout was set to take place. Some reports say the site was a chewing tobacco factory compound, while the AP reports it was the home of a tobacco businessman. It's also unclear based on various reports whether the crowd forced their way through the gates or if the rush happened when the gates were opened. What is clear is the devastation that took place once the stampede started.

The BBC notes TV images showed "hundreds of blood-spattered sandals lying at the factory gate," while AFP reports of relatives rushing through the entrance to find the bodies of loved ones. Such giveaways are common during the holy month of Ramadan, when wealthy families offer up their hand-me-downs to the less fortunate, and similar stampedes have happened in the past, the Guardian notes. PM Sheikh Hasina offered prayers and "profound sympathy" to the victims' families, while the country's religious affairs ministry said it would be giving around $125 each to the families of the deceased for funeral costs. Officials told the news agency the factory owner and at least five others have been arrested for not arranging for public safety. (Bangladesh factories have been plagued with issues.)