A stampede during a Ramadan charity handout has killed at least 25 people in Bangladesh as hundreds of desperately poor people tried to get their hands on free clothing, police say.
The stampede in the northern city of Mymensingh erupted when crowds of people tried to force their way into a factory compound through a small gate after massing outside before dawn, according to local police chiefs.
Television footage from the site showed scenes of utter devastation, with hundreds of torn and blood-spattered sandals abandoned at the gate of the chewing tobacco factory, which is around 120km north of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.
"We have recovered 25 bodies. Most of the dead are poor and emaciated women and two children," Mymensingh police chief Moinul Haque told AFP, putting the number of injured at more than 50.
Kamrul Islam, the senior officer at a police station near the factory, said the death toll was likely to rise further while local media said scores of people had also been injured.
"We have handed all 25 bodies to the relatives," Islam said.
A witness said the stampede began when a number of people fell to the ground as a melee erupted.
"As the gate was opening, everybody ran towards it, pushing and shoving each other and then they started falling," said rickshaw-puller Dulal Mia.
"The people got killed when they closed the gate."
Police and local officials said the owner of the factory and six other people have been arrested for failing to ensure public safety.
Police said up to 1500 people had massed outside the factory at around 4.45am on Thursday after the owners announced they would distribute free clothes to poor people in accordance with Islamic ritual.
Rich Bangladeshis often distribute free clothes to poor people during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 19.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock over the tragedy.
In a condolence message, he offered prayers and "conveyed profound sympathy to the bereaved families".