21 killed in East Java stampede
PRICE OF LIFE: Residents check the names and photos of the people killed in a stampede in a hospital in Pasuruan, East Java, on Monday. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)
Twenty-one women were killed and dozens of others injured in a stampede in the remote East Java regency of Pasuruan on Monday as crowds rushed to receive a cash gift from a local philanthropist.
The majority of those killed have been identified at the Dr. Soedarsono General Hospital, where the injured are receiving intensive medical care.
Most bodies have been claimed by relatives for burial at the public cemetery.
Eyewitnesses said the incident occurred when a crowd pushed through a long narrow alley leading to the house of Saykhon Fikri on Jl. Dr. Wahidin Sudirohusodo to receive zakat (obligatory alms) for the poor.
“Everyone in the crowd was competing for the cash gift of Rp 30,000 (US$3.30) each,” said 36-year-old Lusiana, explaining how the deadly stampede began.
She said her friend, Riama, was among those killed.
Lusiana said the cash handout was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. But hours beforehand, about 2,000 people were already thronging the narrow space near Saykhon’s house and mosque.
A doctor examining the deceased at the hospital said the victims died from being trampled upon while in a weak physical condition from two weeks of fasting.
They also had a shortage of oxygen in the thick of the crowd, the doctor said.
The air temperature in the province is between 32 and 35 Celsius degrees.
Lusiana said she lost consciousness for a few seconds after being trampled on by dozens of other women pushing forward to get the cash gift.
“I pulled away to clear my head,” she said.
Another survivor, Liana, who traveled a long distance to get the cash gift, said she found it difficult to breathe as she was trampled.
The 38-year-old thanked God for her survival and for the gift of Rp 30,000 that she managed to receive. She said she would spend it to celebrate Idul Fitri, the festival that marks the end of the Ramadan fasting month.
Pasuruan Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Herry Sitompul said the incident could have been avoided if the distribution of the cash was conducted in coordination with local authorities.
“All those involved in the cash gift distribution, including Saykhon, have been questioned. They are still undergoing intensive police interrogation,” he said.
He said the incident should be a lesson to prevent similar cases from occurring.
“We encourage the rich to donate part of their fortune to the poor as it is required under Islamic teachings. But the distribution must be well conducted,” he said.
Pasuruan mayor Aminurrochman and regent Dade Angga also expressed their condolences, saying they would cover the medical expenses for the injured and the burial fees for the dead.
Chairman of the local chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Dhofir, also lamented the tragedy, saying Saykhon had taken the wrong approach in realizing his good intentions to help local poor people.
Meanwhile, Vidya R. Budianti, spokeswoman for PT Gudang Garam, the nation’s largest producer of cigarettes, said her company would seek an effective way to distribute its Fitrah tithe to the poor in Kediri and surrounding areas to avoid a similar incident from occurring.