At least 10 people were killed and 40 others injured in a stampede during the qulkhwani of former Chittagong mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury yesterday.
The incident happened around 1:45pm as several hundred people scrambled for food at the entrance to Rima Convention Centre in the port city's Askar Dighir Par area, say witnesses and police.
The entrance was narrow, it had an incline and the crowd was huge, they said.
Almost all the deceased were Hindus.
Family members of Mohiuddin, who died on Friday after suffering from kidney and heart complications for some time, said they arranged a doa mahfil and feast for the late Chittagong city AL president at 14 community centres yesterday.
Special dishes for Hindus were served at Rima Convention Centre from around 11:30am.
Pranab Das, a volunteer as well as a member of Chittagong city unit Jubo League, said they were struggling to control a huge number of people trying to get in.
"At first, four or five people fell down at the entrance [to the gate]. Others followed soon," he said. "There were cries, shouts… we couldn't do anything."
Akram Hossain, a supervisor at the convention centre, said the organisers had told them to arrange food for 7,000 people. But following the huge gathering, they were told to cook for another 2,000 around 1:00pm, he said.
“Around 7,000 people had already taken meals," he added.
Debashish Palit, organising secretary of Chittagong Awami League (north), said the feast was organised for Hindus only but the crowd got bigger as people from other religions joined it.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shoibal Das Suman, a Chittagong City Corporation ward councillor, alleged that hardly 4,000 people could be fed at Rima Convention Centre. But organisers arranged feast for 10,000 people there, he said.
"There were other community centres in the area," he said, blaming the organisers' inability to control such a big gathering for the stampede.
Uttam Chakraborty, another witness, held law enforcers responsible for the accident. "There were some policemen but they acted as silent observers."
Contacted, Mostain Hossain, deputy commissioner (south zone) of Chittagong Metropolitan Police, said 20 police officials were deployed near the scene.
The law enforcers did not baton-charge the crowd as it was a mourning programme, he said, adding that they did their best to control the situation.
"Sensing the huge presence of people, we had called for additional law enforcers but the accident happened before they could arrive."
Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel, son of Mohiuddin, said 80 volunteers were engaged at each of the 14 community centres.
“We had expected around one lakh people but the crowd was way beyond our expectation," he said, adding that "We had not done any publicity over the feast fearing the rush. Despite that, the accident took place."
He said the accident happened due to the mad rush of people.
CMP Commissioner Iqbal Bahar and CMP Deputy Commissioner Mostain echoed Mohibul's view.
Mohibul said ABM Fajle Karim Chowdhury, AL lawmaker from Raozan and also a relative of Mohiuddin, would give Tk one lakh to each of the families of the deceased.
"We will also bear the medical expenses of the injured," he said.
The Chittagong district administration would also give Tk 25,000 to the families of each of the deceased and Tk 5,000 to the families of each of the injured, said Zillur Rahman Chowdhury, deputy commissioner of Chittagong.
The district administration last night formed an eight-member committee, led by Additional District Magistrate Mashudul Haque, to probe the incident.
The deceased were identified as Krishnapad Das, 35, son of late Roycharan Das of Uttar Kattali area in the port city, Sudhir Das, 50, son of Laal Das from Maddham Noapara in Kotwali, Dipankar Das Rahul, 23, a student of History at Chittagong University, Pradip Talukdar, 55, son of Monoranjan Talukdar from Goshail Danga area in the city, Ashish Barua from Noapara in Raozan upazila, Jhontu Das, 45, son of Binod Bihari Das from Jamal Khan by-lane in the city, Dhona Shil, 50, son of Manindra Shil from Boilchari area of Banshkhali, Titu Das, 30, Liton Deb, 50, son of Prakriti Ranjan Deb from Mohsen Awlia area of Anwara upazila, and Alak Bhoumik, 36, son of Chandra Mohan Bhoumik from Choto Kumira area under Sitakund upazila.
The injured were taken to Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
[FM Mizanur Rahman and Amir Hasan Shahriar contributed to this report]