Ramadan Stampede Kills 21 in E. Java

JAKARTA ~ At least 21 people were killed in a stampede in East Java on Monday as they crowded an alley to receive a cash handout for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, police said.
Another 11 people were injured in the crush as thousands packed the narrow sidestreet in Pasuruan to receive a cash gift of Rp30,000 (US$3.30) each from a rich family, police and news reports said.
“Too many people came and they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get the money so they pushed each other. That’s why the stampede occurred,” national police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said.
A doctor at the hospital where the dead and injured were taken said all the victims were women.
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.
Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni told ElShinta radio that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had expressed his “regret” over the loss of life and had blamed the organizers of the charity handout.
Cash handouts are a common form of charity favored by wealthy Indonesians during the holy month.
“It’s an annual activity from that family but there were a lot more people lining up today than in previous years,” Pasuruan mayor Aminurrahman told ElShinta.
He said there were at least 2,500 people in the alley but police put the number at around 5,000.
Muslims are supposed to abstain from eating, drinking and having sex from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. At night they break their fast with relatively lavish family meals that often include expensive treats.
Many families are tightening their belts this Ramadan, with inflation running at above 10 percent after a 30-percent hike in subsidized fuel prices in May.
Indonesia is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia but more than 30 percent of its 234 million people earn less than $2 a day, and unemployment is around 8.5 percent.

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