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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 08:18 GMT
Madras relief stampede kills 42
Victim of stampede
The stampede happened in a queue for flood relief. (Pic: RS Kumar)
At least 42 people have died in a stampede for flood relief aid in the southern Indian city of Madras (Chennai), authorities say.

The incident happened at a school where thousands of people had gathered to collect food coupons.

The state government in Tamil Nadu has been giving food aid to thousands evacuated since floods in October.

At least six women died in a similar stampede at a Madras relief centre in November, and dozens were injured.

Heavy rains in southern India at the end of October killed at least 300 people in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Women killed

A crowd of at least 4,000 had gathered in front of a distribution centre in the city on Saturday night as rumours spread that Sunday would be the last day of relief distribution.

As the lock on the main door snapped, those in the front got crushed by the jostling crowd behind them

In the early hours of Sunday, the crowd became uncontrollable as some sought to break open the gates, the BBC's T N Gopalan reports.

"There was a heavy downpour of rain and the crowd got disturbed," Madras police commissioner R Nataraj told the BBC's World Today programme.

An eyewitness told the AFP news agency that the crowd rushed in when the rain began.

"Suddenly it started raining heavily and there was a mad scramble to get in. As the lock on the main door snapped, those in the front got crushed by the jostling crowd behind them," said Dhanalakshmi, who uses only one name.

Of the 43 crushed to death, 19 were women. Thirty seven others were injured and removed to a government hospital.

Local people blamed lack of adequate security arrangements at the centre.

Authorities said they were helpless in the situation, despite having stationed four policemen there.

The state government has announced a compensation of $2,200 for the families of the people who died in the incident.

See police at the scene of the stampede

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