Mumbai, Jan 18 (IANS) At least 18 mourners were killed in a stampede early Saturday near the Malabar Hill residence here of Dawoodi Bohra spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin who passed away Friday morning aged 102, officials said.
Police and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said the stampede occurred around 1.30 a.m. as thousands of mourners from the community converged near Saifee Mahal where the Syedna's body was kept for people to pay their last respects, a few hours before his funeral procession started from Malabar Hill to Bhendi Bazaar, around four km away.
The cause of the sudden stampede is not clear. Officials said that at least 17 bodies were taken to Saifee Hospital and one to the Cumballa Hill Hospital.
Of the 49 who suffered injuries, 46 people were treated and allowed to go while three have been admitted for treatment, BMC Disaster Control officials said.
Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, died following cardiac arrest here Friday.
The 1.20 million strong community worldwide was plunged into grief at the loss of the venerated leader and the news of the stampede.
Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil ordered a probe into the incident which happened in the VIP precincts of Malabar Hill which houses the Raj Bhavan, bungalows of the chief minister, chief justice, ministers, judges, top industrialists, diplomats and celebrities.
Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh told reporters that though the exact cause of the stampede will only be known once investigations are completed, the gates of Saifee Mahal were suddenly closed to keep out the massive crowd of mourners and that could have led to the tragedy.
Singh has appealed to the Dawoodi Bohra mourners and general Mumbaikars to maintain calm in view of the tragic incidents.
Among the 18 victims is Aamir Abbas Kalolwala, 28, of Pune, employed with a multinational company, WNS Ltd.
Meanwhile, the funeral procession of the Syedna left Malabar Hill for Bhendi Bazar, wending through the narrow and congested roads of south Mumbai.
The Dawoodi Bohra community elders urged the mourners to maintain calm and discipline, not to venture near the cortege and adhere to security instructions.
Followed by over 100,000 people, the funeral procession is expected to reach Bhendi Bazaar later this afternoon where the Syedna will be laid to rest beside his father in the Raudat Tahera Mausoleum.
The Syedna succeeded his father, Syedna Taher Saifuddin, in 1965. His 70-year-old son Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin has succeeded him.