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10 killed in stampede at ex-Chittagong mayor’s memorial service

  • Published at 09:09 am December 18th, 2017
  • Last updated at 03:54 pm December 18th, 2017
10 killed in stampede at ex-Chittagong mayor’s memorial service
Ten people have been killed and 14 others injured in a stampede at the qulkhwani [Muslim memorial service] of former Chittagong mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury. Multiple unconfirmed sources told the Dhaka Tribune that more than 50 people were injured in the incident. Of the injured, four are in critical condition, confirmed Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) police outpost in-charge Johir Uddin. The deceased are Shudhir Das, 45, Jhontu Das, 45, Krishna Pada Das, 40, Dipankar Das Rahul, 25, Alak Bhowmik, 36, Pradip Das, 50, Liton Dey, 53, Titu, 32, Dhonashil, 65, and Sattyabrata Bhattachariya, 42 confirms Jashim Uddin, deputy assistant director of Chittagong fire service and civil defence. Eight of them died on the spot while two others died while being driven to Chittagong Medical College Hospital. “Most of the victims are Hindus,” said DAD Jashim Uddin. Among the deceased, Dipankar Das Rahul was a second year history student at the University of Chittagong (CU), his classmates confirmed. The incident had taken place at Rima Community Centre at 1pm, which is located in Chittagong city’ Ashkar Dighir Par area. Family members of ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury last week announced that they will offer a special meal in memory of the former mayor for the people of Chittagong city in 14 venues, spread around the city. Rima Community Centre was selected for non-Muslims and people who avoid beef-based meal, which is commonly offered in memorial services in the region. Chittagong Metropolitan Police Commissioner Iqbal Bahar has insisted that there was no criminal intent behind the deaths. “The people who went to the venue were trampled because they were trying to rush in. There was no violence,” he told reporters. Mohiuddin’s son Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury Nowfel, also a ruling party leader, senior Awami League lawmakers in the region visited the injured at the hospital. While visiting the victims in the evening, Awami League Press and Publicity Secretary Hasan Mahmud had to confront angry family members. “In Chittagong, memorial services for the late leader were held at 14 spots. At all other venues, the services were carried out peacefully and efficiently,” he said, while talking to the family members. [caption id="attachment_234715" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Bereaved family members of a Chittagong victim, who was killed during a stampede at a memorial service taking place at a community centre in the city's Ashkar Dighir Par area on Monday; December 18, 2017 Focus Bangla[/caption] Speaking to reporters afterwards, Hasan, an MP from Chittagong 7 constituency, called the stampede a heartbreaking and terrible incident. Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed grave sorrow for the victims, Hasan added. Asked whether he thought the negligence of the organizers was to be blamed for the deaths, the press secretary said: “We have to look into whether there was any ill intention behind this,” he said. “Our priority is to ensure best possible treatment for the injured,” he said. CU Vice-Chancellor Prof Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury and the chair of the History department visited the hospital to see the victims who are students of the university.

Witnesses’ accounts

This correspondent spoke to several eye-witnesses and victims who unequivocally blamed the organizers for the tragedies. According to one witness Mithun Palit, more than 10,000 people had been waiting at both the gates of the venue, which could only hold 4,000 people, before the service began at 1pm. “As soon as the volunteers opened the gates, all the people waiting there tried to enter in a hurry and some of the people at the front fell down due to a slope in the driveway in front of one gate,” he said. Akash Debnath, a CU student, who was slightly injured, said he came with seven other friends to the event. His friend Dipankar had died in the stampede. “The stampede happened between 1:30 and 2pm. I think at least 10,000 people were waiting outside the venue,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. The venue had two entrances, and the gate where the stampede broke out was at the end of a slanted road, he said. There were 20-30 policemen and only a handful of volunteers, Akash said. Classmates said Dipankar lived in a student's mess in the city's Firingi Bazar area. His father Sanatan Das is a farmer and his elder brother works at a garments factory in the EPZ. Volunteers Swarup Rai and Nripen Sarkar blamed the police on duty at the venue for their negligence. “If the police were a bit active and at least tried to control the crowd, none of this would have happen,” said Nripen. Deceased Shudhir’s nephew Mithu Das also blamed the organizers for the incident. [caption id="attachment_234752" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Bereaved family members of a Chittagong victim, who was killed during a stampede at a memorial service taking place at a community centre in the city's Ashkar Dighir Par area on Monday; December 18, 2017 Focus Bangla[/caption]

Compensation announced

Mohiuddin’s son Nowfel promised to provide Tk1 lakh each to the family members of the deceased as compensation, and an extra Tk5,000 for their cremation. Nowfel also said the family will bear the medical expenses of the injured. Awami League lawmaker ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury said the government will also give Tk1 lakh compensation to the families of the deceased. Besides, Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Zillur Rahman pledged to give Tk25,000 to the deceased families and Tk5,000 to the injured. He also said: “If necessary, we will increase the amount of compensation.” Mohiuddin Chowdhury passed away at Max Hospital in the port city on December 15. He was 73.

Deceased victims' families protest

Families of people killed in the stampede at the memorial service of ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury took to street for a brief period Sunday evening, demanding that the dead bodies be handed over to them without autopsies. The families of the deceased blocked the Chawkbazar Road in front of the Chittagong Medical College Hospital on Monday evening around 8pm. For some time, police and the protesting families appeared to be in a confrontational position on the street, with the protesters piling up brick bats on the road. However, the situation was diffused and traffic resumed on the road. Protesters alleged that that the district administration is refusing to release the bodies without post mortem, although the hospital authorities have no restrictions. As of 9pm, they were protesting outside the CMCH emergency ward. Doctors and district administration officials were unreachable for comments.
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