Site of stampede in the food hub of southern Pakistan.

AFP photo.

At least 11 women and children were killed in a stampede at a Ramadan food distribution center in Karachi,

a port city in southern Pakistan, Friday, police and rescue workers said.

The stampede occurred when

hundreds of women and children panicked and began jostling for food outside a factory.

Some of them fell into a nearby drain, local police officer Mughees Hashmi said.

Residents said a wall collapsed near the drain, injuring and killing several people during the stampede.

Other people were injured in the incident.

Hashmi said eight women and three children were killed.

It is the deadliest stampede at a food distribution center since Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, began.

With the latest incident, the total death toll in stampedes at free food distribution centers in the country rose to 21 since last week.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a native of the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, ordered authorities to investigate the cause of the incident.

Hashmi said the owner of the factory that organized the center had not alerted the police to the plan.

He added that the local police were not aware of the distribution, since, if they were, they would have deployed elements.

Local resident Mohammad Arsalan said he lives near the factory, where people have been gathering since morning to collect free food.

He added that he did not know the exact cause of the incident, but "we heard screaming and then we found out about this stampede."

Friday's incident occurred a day after authorities ordered additional police to be deployed to Ramadan food distribution centers to prevent dangerous overcrowding.

(Taken from La Jornada)