At least 12 people, including women and children, were killed and at least five others suffered injuries in a deadly stampede at a Ramzan food distribution centre in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Friday, officials said.
The stampede took place after some people unknowingly stepped on a live wire where food was being distributed, leading to the tragedy. “Soon, people started pushing each other, due to which some even fell into a nearby drain,” police said.
"Initially two persons were electrocuted after stepping on the live wire and that led to panic and stampede,” SSP Ameerullah told PTI.
“Two children and two women fell in a drain when its wall collapsed due to the rush of the people,” he said.
At least 11 other people, including women, have died while trying to get free flour from government distribution outlets in Pakistan's Punjab province in recent days.
With the latest incident in Karachi, the death toll from stampedes across free food centres in Pakistan has risen to at least 22.
The free food distribution initiative was launched by Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last week at a time when the country is in the midst of a severe economic crisis.
Pakistan has been negotiating with the IMF for the release of a $1.1 billion bailout package since February but has so far met with little success due to the stringent conditions imposed by the Washington-based lender.
The funds are part of a $6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which analysts say is critical if Pakistan is to avoid defaulting on external debt obligations. The weekly inflation level in Pakistan has touched an all-time high of 45 per cent.
Pakistan is scrambling to increase its forex reserves, which are currently estimated to be at $4.2 billion, according to the country's central bank.