One dead, 400 injured in religious procession

2015-01-09 09:23

A 44-year-old man was killed and more than 400 injured today in the Philippines’ largest religious procession honouring a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ.

The victim suffered a heart attack as men, women and children, mostly barefoot, wearing maroon T-shirts and waving white handkerchiefs or towels, jostled to get near the statue of the Black Nazarene on a carriage.

“The man was rushed to a nearby hospital but he was declared dead on arrival,” said Johnny Yu, a disaster relief officer in Manila City.

More than 400 people also sought first-aid assistance for difficulty in breathing, dizziness, high blood pressure, cuts on their feet and legs and other injuries, he added.

The 6.7km procession was moving at a snail’s pace and expected to end around midnight at Quiapo Church, home of the statue.

Organisers said they expected more than 12 million people to join the annual event, but it was difficult to confirm the actual number of devotees as they moved in and out of the procession. Police estimated the crowd was more than half a million at times.

The feast of the Black Nazarene is one of the most celebrated religious events in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, where more than 80% of the population professes the faith.

The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene.

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