Dozens killed in India temple stampede

At least 144 people were killed and scores injured on Tuesday in a massive stampede at a Hindu temple in the western state of Rajasthan, a senior state official said.

The disaster occurred as more than 25 000 worshippers clamoured to reach the 15th-century Chamunda Devi temple in Jodhpur’s hill-top Mehrangarh Fort at the start of Navaratri, a major Hindu festival.

“The stampede began when people lost their footing and set off a chain reaction,” Rajasthan’s Home Secretary, SN Thanvi, said.

“The number of dead is 144.”

Officials said about 150 people were hurt, many of them seriously.

After the stampede, devotees carried limp bodies of victims to police vehicles, while others desperately tried to resuscitate relatives.

Temple crushes are common during religious festivities in India, where crowd control is often rudimentary or non-existent.

Officials said the stampede appeared to have started when a wall along the narrow path leading up to the temple collapsed, killing several people and sparking widespread panic.

“I was to join my friend this morning [Tuesday] to offer prayers but I was a little late,” recalled a dazed Jodhpur university student who gave his name as Manish.

“When I arrived, I saw chaos, people rushing around the place. I looked for my friend and after a while found him. He was unconscious but without serious injuries,” Manish said.

He said the path leading up to the temple shrine was narrow with many people trying to get in at the time of the incident, as the auspicious time for offering prayers was about to begin.

Outside the state-run Mathura Das Mathur Hospital, relatives scrambled to look through lists of names of those admitted to the emergency room, witnesses said.

Scenes inside were equally chaotic with doctors struggling to cope with the numbers of injured, reporter at the hospital said.

“We were standing in line to get inside the temple when suddenly there was a commotion,” said factory worker Ajay, who was brought to hospital unconscious.

“I was pushed on to the ground.
Before I could get up people were running over me, stamping over me. I woke up here,” he said, pointing to his hospital bed.

Tuesday’s stampede is the fourth such incident in India this year.

In August, about 150 Hindu worshippers died in a stampede in the northern mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. That was sparked by rumours of an impending landslide at a hill-top Hindu temple.

Six people died in a similar accident at a popular Hindu festival in July in the eastern state of Orissa, where about one million people had gathered in the town of Puri for an annual celebration.

In March, nine people were killed and many more injured at a religious gathering in central India when a railing broke at the temple premises, leading to a stampede among 100 000 devotees.

In one of India’s deadliest ever stampedes, 257 people were killed during a Hindu pilgrimage in western Maharashtra state in January 2005.—AFP

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