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Dozens Die in Rush for Food Aid in Southern India

More than 40 people have been killed in southern India and nearly 50 injured in a stampede to collect food coupons. Most of the victims were poor people made homeless in recent floods in the region.

A crowd of thousands had gathered outside a government school before dawn Sunday in Tamil Nadu's capital, Chennai, to collect food coupons being distributed to flood victims.

Authorities say the crowd stampeded when there was a wild scramble to get into the building, as it began to rain heavily. Police say many people in the front were crushed, as the crowd became uncontrollable. Tamil Nadu's chief minister, J. Jayalalitha, gave this account of the tragedy.

"At that time, there was a sudden downpour," Mr. Jayalalith says. "Because of this, pushing aside the police security barriers, the crowd tried to storm inside the compound. In this unfortunate and sad accident, 42 persons have lost their lives."

There were many women among the victims. Television news showed scenes of chaos, as people wailed, police tried to restore order and ambulances carried the injured to hospitals. Hundreds of others tried to locate their relatives.

This man says the crowd rushed in when the gates of the building were opened. He says he lost his sister in the tragedy, and is still searching for his brother.

Local people complained of lack of adequate security arrangements, but police said the crowd was much larger than they had anticipated. People had begun gathering hours before the relief camp was scheduled to open, fearing that there would not be enough coupons to go around.

This is the second such tragedy in Tamil Nadu since the state government opened around 150 relief centers to distribute food to thousands of people left homeless by torrential rains that have lashed the state since late October. In November, six people were killed and 20 injured in a similar stampede to collect cash and food from a relief center in the city.