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30,000 unexpectedly turn out in Georgia for public housing sign-up

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Panic ensued when the event began, officials say
  • Only 10,000 people were initially expected
  • Crowds began gathering at the site as early as Monday
  • 62 people required medical attention, including 20 who were hospitalized

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- A crush of people 30,000 strong unexpectedly turned out Wednesday in hopes of getting public housing applications in East Point, Georgia, causing a panic to ensue once the process actually began, authorities said.

Crowds began gathering in the municipality on the outskirts of Atlanta as early as Monday for the applications, officials said.

Initially, only 10,000 people were expected, but officials said crowd control became an issue after many families brought more than one member -- children, other relatives and even dogs in some cases, according to Kimberly Lemish, executive director of the East Point Housing Authority.

While the crowd remained orderly and calm leading up to the handout, "as soon as the doors were opened panic ensued," the East Point Fire Department said in a news release.

Maj. Donald Chase of the East Point Police Department said the event was organized with three to four distribution centers as well as a main distribution site.

The crowds, however, tried to circumvent the lines and come around the sides to gain access, Chase said.

As many as 62 people required medical attention, including 20 who were hospitalized as a result of the crowds, the hot weather and the failure of some to take their usual medications, the fire department said.

More than 30 officers were deployed to the site to gain control of the surging crowds.

Despite the initial problems, the housing authority successfully distributed applications to 13,000 families.

CNN's Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.