24 killed in stampede at gathering in India

2016-10-16 06:34
(Picture:  AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Varanasi - Police say the final death toll in the stampede at a religious gathering in northern India is at least 24 people as thousands of devotees of a controversial guru tried to cross a bridge at once.

The followers of Jai Gurudev, a leader of a local religious sect, had gathered on the outskirts of Varanasi, a Hindu holy town in Uttar Pradesh state, when the deadly stampede broke out on Saturday.

"We can confirm that 24 people have died in the incident. Nineteen of the dead are women," said police inspedtor general Hari Ram Sharma.

Lying in a heap

At least 20 others were injured in the crush and were undergoing treatment at nearby hospitals.

State police chief Javeed Ahmed blamed overcrowding on the old iron bridge for the disaster.

"They had sought permission for 5 000 persons but many more people reached and joined the procession," said Ahmed.

"They were crossing a bridge when some rumour-mongering happened which led to the disaster."

TV footage showed piles of colourful clothing and slippers lying in a heap with policemen trying to clear the debris.

"There was a lot of chaos...all of us were pushed and shoved. Many people have died including my mother," a witness told reporters as ambulances sped by.

Devotees from nearby districts had gathered for the two-day religious congregation on the banks of river Ganges.

State Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has ordered a high-level inquiry into the tragedy while announcing monetary compensation for the victims, his spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said.

Near temple

Stampedes at India's religious festivals, where police and volunteer stewards are often overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowds, are not uncommon.

In July last year, a stampede on the banks of a holy river killed 27 pilgrims in southern India.

Around 115 people were killed in October 2013 at a stampede near a temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, site of another deadly stampede there seven years earlier.

Read more on:    india

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