Dhaka: At least 23 people -- all women and children -- were killed in a stampede in Bangladesh's Mymensingh district, about 120 km north of capital Dhaka, as they crowded outside a donor's house early on Friday morning to receive zakat clothes, distributed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, police said.
Dozens more were injured in the crush as thousands of people packed a narrow side-street in the central Bangladesh district headquarter town, Xinhua news agency reported.
Since Thursday night, poor people gathered near the house of Md Shamim, a local businessman dealing in chewing tobacco, to collect zakat, residents of the area and police said.
"Too many people came and they were afraid they wouldn't be able to get the clothes so they pushed each other. That's why the stampede occurred," said Kamrul Islam, a Mymensingh police officer.
But one zakat clothes seeker, Zamila Khatun, alleged that workers of Shamim's factory, where he pays poor wages, had swooped down on them with batons and triggered the stampede.
She also alleged that the businessman stages this show every year in the name of zakat.
Eight people, including Shamim, have been reportedly held in this connection.
A three-member probe body has been formed and asked to submit its findings within three days.
The incident took place at around 5 a.m.
A doctor at the hospital where the dead and injured were taken said all the victims were women and children.
Farhad Hossain, at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital, confirmed that 23 bodies were in the hospital and said the cause of death was suffocation and stampede.
Television images of the incident showed women crying out in pain and fear as the crowd packed into a fenced area outside the family's house, with those at the back apparently trying to push their way to the front.
Authorities concerned have expressed "regret" over the loss of life and blamed the organisers.
The ministry of religious affairs has announced a donation of 10,000 taka (about $129) to each victim's family.
Zakat clothes distributions is a common form of charity favoured by wealthy Bangladeshis during the holy month.
According to Islam, rich Muslims should give zakat to the poor. Zakat means a part of wealth whose payment has been made obligatory for rich Muslims and giving off a precise part to the eligible people following specified rules and norms.
Every year some poor people die in stampedes in Bangladesh while collecting zakat clothes or money.