It was rumours and a sudden downpour that led to the stampede that killed at least 42 people who had gathered on Sunday at a government school in Chennai to collect relief coupons.
Around 4,500 people had assembled in front of the school at M G R Nagar from as early as 3:00 am following rumours that only a limited number would be given relief coupons. However, a sudden downpour at around 5:00 am made them run for cover, triggering a melee that led to the bloody stampede.
Similar rumours had left six people dead and 20 injured in a stampede near a relief camp in north Chennai on November 6. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said, "Some mischief-mongers with an intention to tarnish the image of the state government had spread word that only 1000 families would be provided coupons on Sunday," causing people to assemble in a large number outside the school.
The crowd broke police cordon and rushed into the building leading to the stampede.
Residents here said people began flocking to the relief camp since 3 am Sunday following announcements through the Public Address System that coupons for relief material would be distributed from 9:00 am onwards.
They said police personnel deployed in small numbers at the spot stood helpless, unable to control the crowd.
"There were only a handful of policemen and they could not do anything to control the crowd," said a resident.
The scene of tragedy wore a gory look with bodies, chappals and screams of injured people.
And when the city woke up to the tragedy, the news of which by then had spread like wild fire, panicky relatives began rushing to the spot and started frantic search for their loved ones.
At the two government hospitals where the bodies were kept and injured admitted, the scene was no different. Relatives and friends of those who were killed and injured converged in large numbers.
The scene was filled with screams of injured people and sobbing relatives and friends. Some were waiting for the release of the bodies of the victims, while others were trying to see the injured.