4:53 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

18 killed in Mumbai stampede

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At least 18 people died in a stampede and about 45 were injured early on Saturday morning in the Malabar Hill area, where an overwhelming crowd from the Dawoodi Bohra community had gathered to pay their last repsects to the departed spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.

Officials from the municipality’s Disaster Management Cell said the incident occurred around 1.30 a.m. Thousands of people had gathered outside the residence of Burhanuddin – Saifee House – in the south Mumbai Malabar Hill area, where his body was kept. Saifee House is located next to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s residence, Sahyadri.

According to police sources the gates of the Syedna’s bungalow were closed at 1.30 am without informing the authorities. Sources added that the community leaders and authorities were unprepared for the large number of people who gathered to pay last respects to the spiritual leader.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said, “The gate of the bungalow was closed that led to a stampede. The crowd was very emotional so we had to exercise restrain,” he said. He added that extra force has been deployed to handle the crowd and the Rapid Action Force has also been deployed.

Shehr Hakim (75) who had come from Dubai with his family for the funeral of the Syedna said people were eager to pay homage to their spiritual leader. “Everyone wanted to take Darshan as soon as they could. The crowd was so emotional that it could not be contained. Amid all this, the unfortunate incident took place,” he said. Mr Hakim was able to get a glimpse of the dead leader only in the morning.

Zoeb Hussein (63) who came from Mumbra said he had a narrow escape. “I had stood in the queue for more than two hours before I could enter and pay my respect to the Syedna. There was a huge crowd and all the lanes were packed but i somehow managed to get out. I saw later on television that the stampede had taken place only soon after,” he said.

A municipal official said most bodies were taken to Saifee Hospital nearby. “At least one body was taken to Cumballa Hill Hospital. At least 20 people who suffered injuries were treated and allowed to go,” the official said.

Thirty-year old Sayed Hussein came limping out of the Saifee Hospital on Saturday morning. He had fractured his right ankle after having tried to save people during the stampede. “I was caught in the stampede and was trying to help people. Within moments, I couldn’t move as I fell and people walked over my feet,” he said. He had bruises on his feet and arms. “I am in pain but I want to make it in time for the funeral at the masjid. I will stay at a distance but I will go for sure,” he said.

The Syedna died on Friday morning following a cardiac arrest. He was 102 and was the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq (head) of Dawoodi Bohras worldwide. Community members from at least 40 countries had gathered outside the Saifee House on Friday night.

The Syedna’s funeral has been scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday. Lakhs of people are expected to gather for Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s funeral which will take place at south Mumbai’s congested area of Bhendi Bazaar around 3 pm on Saturday.

Meanwhile, hours ahead of the Syedna’s funeral, the Mumbai traffic control issued an advisory asking people to avoid areas near Sahyadri Guest House, Teen Patti Junction, Bandstand of Walkeshwar, Sukhsagar, Opera House, Saifee Masjid.

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