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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Fatal stampede at Pakistan festival

Pakistani officials say at least 27 people have been crushed to death and 100 were injured in a stampede outside the shrine of an Islamic saint in Paktattan, 180km (110 miles) south of Lahore.

A police inspector said 20 of the victims died of suffocation when a crowd of thousands of men, who were crammed in a narrow street, rushed forward to the shrine's main door when it opened. The rest died of their injuries in hospital.

The stampede occurred at the start of a religious festival in Punjab province.

Every year, an estimated 500,000 people attend religious rituals marking the anniversary of the death of the Muslim saint Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, who died in 1265.

Many devotees believe that entry to heaven is ensured if they pass through the shrine's Behashti Darwaza (Paradise Door).

Officials said the victims included people from different parts of the country and local authorities were making arrangements to transport the bodies to their home towns.

Inquiry

A judicial inquiry has been ordered to clarify the cause of the tragedy.

The district administration and the shrine management appeared to blame each other for the accident.

A statement issued by the district magistrate said the stampede happened because the ceremony was delayed for three hours and some people tried to enter the shrine from a northern gate that was not meant to be open for access.

But a shrine spokesman is quoted as saying that two magistrates on duty had not taken proper steps to control the crowd.

State radio said Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, expressed his heart-felt sorrow over the incident.

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31 Jan 01 | South Asia
Riots over Pakistan 'blasphemy' letter
01 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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