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A 113 dead in Madhya Pradesh temple stampede, chief minister to visit site today

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India temple stampede in Madhya Pradesh 'kills 91'
India temple stampede in Madhya Pradesh 'kills 91'

At least 113 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a stampede on a crowded bridge across Sindh river leading to Ratangarh temple in Datia district of northern Madhya Pradesh on Sunday.

Many of the devotees – mostly women and children – died by falling into the river below.

Eyewitnesses said the stampede was triggered by police using batons to control the crowd crossing the bridge, but the district administration said a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse led to the tragedy.

While 113 deaths were confirmed, the toll is expected to go much higher, said DK Arya, deputy inspector general (DIG), Chambal range.

He said many victims were in critical condition, and divers had been looking for survivors and bodies that may have been swept away by the strong currents of the river.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident on Sunday.

He will visit the spot around 11am on Monday, along with the director general of police and the state chief secretary. After the CM’s meeting with the officials, administrative lapses are likely to emerge and an administrative inquiry is expected to be ordered.

On Sunday, the CM had announced financial assistance of Rs. 1.5 lakh each to kin of the dead, Rs. 50,000 to those who sustained serious injuries and Rs. 25,000 to others hurt in the stampede.

He made the announcement after taking permission from the Election Commission (EC), as the model code of conduct is in force in Madhya Pradesh due to the upcoming assembly elections.

The state government has also sought the EC’s nod to airlift the severely injured.

The tragedy brought back memories of a similar stampede at the same place in 2006, when at least 20 devotees had died.

It has also put the spotlight on poor crowd-control planning by the authorities, which has made stampedes a recurrent feature at religious congregations.

After Sunday’s stampede, tension prevailed in the area as angry people began throwing stones at police. About half a dozen cops reportedly sustained injuries.

There was a massive traffic jam on the way to the temple, which hampered rescue operations.

Inspector general of police (Chambal range) SM Afzal ordered more reinforcement of police personnel.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister condoled the loss of lives in the stampede. He asked the administration to ensure medical assistance to the injured.

“On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday.

India temple stampede in Madhya Pradesh ‘kills 91′

Some 91 pilgrims, mostly women and children, have been killed in a stampede at a Hindu festival in central India, local officials have said.

Many were crushed after panic broke out on a bridge near the Ratangarh temple in Madhya Pradesh state. Others died when they jumped from the bridge.

Officials said the stampede may have been sparked by a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse.

Hundreds of thousands had gathered near the town of Datia for the festival.

Local devotee Atul Chaudhary, who survived the crush, told BBC Hindi there had been a couple of thousand people on the bridge.

He heard screams, and people began rushing to get off the bridge.

“Several people could be seen flattened to the ground in the midst of the melee,” he said.

“Some of the youngsters panicked and jumped into the swollen river.

“I and my friends were close to the exit point and along with several others ran for safety. Scores of others were not so lucky.”

The narrow bridge is about 500m long and had only recently been rebuilt following another stampede in 2007.

Deputy Police Inspector DK Arya said the death toll has risen to 91 and 10 others were in a critical condition.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his condolences, saying: “On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Narottam Mishra said a judicial inquiry had been launched.

“Information from locals suggests that rumours of the bridge giving way could have led to the stampede,” he said.

Other reports suggested that police sparked panic by using batons to control the crowd.

Officials said the dead included at least 42 women and 30 children.

Emergency crews and specialist divers have been scouring the river for bodies but paused the search at nightfall on Sunday.

Local official Sanket Bhondve said the immediate priority was to provide relief to the injured.

The accident happened at about 09:00 (03:30 GMT), but information was slow to emerge because the temple is in a remote area with erratic mobile-phone coverage.

Hindu festivals in India are notorious for deadly stampedes.

In the past year, dozens have died in three similar tragedies.

In 2011 more than 100 died at a festival in the southern state of Kerala.

Inside Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort, more than 220 people were killed in 2008 in a stampede at the Chamunda Devi Hindu temple.

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