Thousands of women stampeded as they left a religious gathering in southern Pakistan on Sunday, and at least 29 people, including children, were killed, police and doctors said.

More than 70 other people were injured.

The stampede occurred as thousands of women were leaving the Sunni Muslim Faizan-e-Medina center in downtown Karachi, said Hanees Billu, a spokesman for the center.

Witnesses said the fatal crush happened inside the center's compound, when a woman bent down to pick up a young girl who had fallen, causing other people behind her to trip.

"I heard a girl crying for help and a woman stopped to pick her up," said a 40-year-old woman who identified herself as Zaibunisa.

"When the woman stopped there was a wave of people who stepped over us. Someone pulled me to the side and after I gained consciousness, I was in the hospital," she said from her hospital bed, where she was being treated for a broken arm.

Most deaths were caused by internal injuries and suffocation, said Simi Jamali, a doctor at the state-run Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Center, which received seven bodies and more than 30 injured people.

The bodies of 18 women and four children were taken to Liaqat National Hospital, said Ali Azmat Abdi, director of the privately run facility. The hospital was treating more than 40 people injured in the stampede, "some of them are in very serious condition," he said.

Dozens of unconscious women and children were sent to hospitals, said Zahid Hussain, a Karachi police official.

An official at the Islamic center where the stampede occurred said that more than 10,000 women, many accompanied by children, were at the gathering, where clerics gave sermons about the life of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The gathering was part of celebrations leading to the anniversary Tuesday of the birth and the death of Muhammad.