Tuesday, 15 October 2013

PHOTOS: Indian Temple Stampede – 115 Dead

The death toll from the stampede at the Hindu temple in a remote part of central Madhya Pradesh state has risen to 115, with many of the victims leaping to their deaths in the water below, also many succumbed to injuries, India.

Nearly half a million pilgrims had gathered at Ratangarh village temple on the last day of the popular 10-day Navratri festival. The festival is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu mother goddess Durga, which draws millions of worshippers to temples, especially in northern and central India.

Thousands were crossing a bridge over the Sindh river leading to the temple when rumours spread that the narrow structure would collapse.

While officials said the panic appeared to have been sparked by a false rumour that the bridge might collapse after being struck by a heavy vehicle around lunchtime, the witnesses said that panic triggered a stampede that police appear to have tried to control with baton charges, worsening the situation.

“There were rumours that the bridge could collapse after the tractor hit it. Many people are feared to have fallen into the river.”

Up to 400,000 devotees were already inside or around the temple in Datia district, which is about 350 kilometres north of the state capital Bhopal, when the stampede took place.

Witnesses said the situation was exacerbated by police charging at the crowds with heavy metal-tipped bamboo sticks known as lathis.

“Police lathi-charge during the panic run worsened the situation, forcing many to jump off the bridge,” 28-year-old Manoj Sharma, who lives in the nearby village of Bhander, told The Times of India’s website.

However Arya, the deputy inspector general of police in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh state, said that “there was no baton-charge” by the police.

Uma Shankar Gupta, the state’s home minister, said authorities had not yet determined why the stampede had broken out, but downplayed suggestions that security to deal with the crowds was inadequate.

“There were safety measures in place, this is an annual event,” he told reporters.

“We don’t yet have information on how this happened, as our focus is on the rescue effort.”
Ashok Argal, a federal lawmaker from the region, placed the blame on crowds trying to rush across the bridge.
“It is wrong to say there were any administrative lapses. The administration had taken steps and made fool-proof arrangements to avoid any untoward incident,” he said.

Sometimes there is little cooperation from people and people are always in a hurry, because of which this unfortunate incident occurred.”

The Times of India reported that crowds could be seen pelting police with stones as frustration grew over the rescue operation.

Efforts to reach the injured and ferry them to hospital were being hampered by the huge volume of traffic in the area.

A team of around 20 medics had however managed to reach the scene of the tragedy, and the casualty wards of nearby hospitals were being emptied to cope with the influx of victims, the newspaper added on its website.

The state’s chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced payouts of 150,000 rupees ($2,500) to the families of those killed, and 50,000 rupees to the injured.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among those to express condolences over Sunday’s tragedy.

“On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” he said in a tweet.

Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata Party which is hoping to oust Singh’s Congress government in next year’s general election, said his “prayers are with the victims and their families”.

The stampede comes only weeks before Madhya Pradesh is due to hold elections for the state assembly.

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