MUMBAI: A stampede killed at least 18 mourners in Mumbai on Saturday when a large number of Bohra community members gathered to pay their last respects to their spiritual leader, police said.
More than 40 people were injured in the chaos that erupted shortly after midnight when the gates were shut to the residence of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, who died aged 102 on Friday.
“Organisers had closed the gates. The crowd was so huge that people started suffocating, some fainted and then people began running and falling on each other in a panic,” Mumbai police chief Satyapal Singh told reporters.
In reply to a question, he confirmed that 18 people died and admitted there was a lapse in crowd control as police and organisers had failed to anticipate the huge turnout of devotees. Singh added that he had ordered a thorough investigation into what led to the disorder.
Thousands had gathered Saturday on the streets of Mumbai for the funeral procession of Syedna Burhanuddin, TV footage showed. India’s Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters: “I feel very sorry about the tragic incident,” and expressed his condolences for the 18 deaths.
Syedna Burhanuddin, who died of a heart attack, was due to celebrate his 103rd birthday in a few weeks, a spokesman said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2014.