- The Straits Times/Google Maps
Two elderly women died just days before Chinese New Year after being suffocated by a frenzied crowd at a CNY event in Kuala Lumpur.
The women, identified as Ah Poh, 85, and Law Ion Nang, 78, were among the crowd that turned up to queue for CNY buffet coupons at KL’s ICC Pudu indoor market on Monday (Jan 28), The Star reported.
The coupons, sponsored by ICC Pudu and its hawker union, were meant to provide senior citizens a free buffet meal and a packet of rice on Feb 11 in conjunction with the festive season, the New Straits Times (NST) reported.
The coupons were being distributed from 11am to 1pm, NST added.
While only 200 coupons were available, over a thousand people turned up to queue for them, The Star said.
A security guard in the area told The Star that there had been an office set up where the elderly could go to register for the coupons, and only four people were allowed in the office at a time – presumably to avoid overcrowding.
However, those in the queue ignored the rule and started pushing and shoving each other in their rush to register for the coupons, The Star said.
ICC Pudu manager Chin Huey Yee told NST that 150 of the 200 coupons had already been distributed by 11.50am that day, and those in the queue were asked to leave as registration was closing.
However, people “refused to go home,” NST quoted Chin as saying. Instead, they “started pushing (each other) and the situation became chaotic”.
The security guard quoted by The Star added that in the crowd’s rush to grab the remaining coupons, he heard screams from the crowd and noticed that four elderly women had fainted. Two of them were not breathing, he said.
According to NST, police were informed at 12.04pm that two senior citizens had died and others had fainted at the event. Officers subsequently found two bodies lying on the floor of the venue and sent them to Kuala Lumpur Hospital for a post-mortem.
The two women were believed to have died of suffocation, NST quoted a police spokesman as saying.
In a separate report by The Star, police said they were investigating potential negligence on the part of ICC Pudu, and would look into how preparations had been made for the event.
According to NST, ICC Pudu manager Chin said the event – which is in its second year – was organised by the hawkers of ICC Pudu’s food court, and not its management.
In addition, ICC Pudu had put up a notice informing the public that only 200 coupons would be distributed, she said.
Another member of ICC Pudu’s management told The Star that last year’s programme was far less chaotic, and that in this year’s case, “hundreds” of elderly “flooded the area as soon as they heard about the free meal“.
However, management was willing to compensate the families of the deceased, Chin added – and the form of compensation depended on the families’ requests.
In a separate report, The Star said the families of the deceased did not know they had gone to queue for the coupons.