4:06 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Patna stampede death toll rises to 33, most died of suffocation

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Twenty one others who were injured were undergoing treatment at the Patna Medical College Hospital , and they were all out of danger, hospital superintendent Lakindra Prasad said.

Prasad said the post mortem examination of the victims’ bodies had identified asphyxia as the main cause of the deaths.

Principal Secretary, Home, Amir Subhani and additional director general of police (headquarters) Gupteshwar Pandey have been appointed to inquire into the stampede.

A large number of wailing people sat outside the PMCH the entire night looking for their near and dear ones who got separated in the melee.

Additional police forces have been deployed at the incident site near Ramgulam Chowk.

The tragedy struck at around 7 pm on Dussehra day at the south east corner of the ground near the Exhibition Road when people who were returning after watching the “Ravana Vadh” (killing of demon king) event jostled with each other to move ahead, eyewitnesses and officials said.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered to watch the annual event at the historic Gandhi Maidan where several pockets were reportedly dimly lit when the stampede broke out.

Eyewitnesses claimed the stampede was triggered by rumours that some people had come in contact with a live wire.

In the ensuing panic, slippers and shoes were seen strewn on a 500-metre-stretch as people tried to flee from the scene. “There was such a rush towards the exit gate that several women and children were run over,” Verma said.

Locals also blamed the absence of any lighting at the venue for the accident. “No preparation was in place to account for the mass exit by thousands of people from a single gate in darkness at the same time,” said a man present at the spot.

Angry spectators raised slogans against the administration for allegedly closing an exit near the western side of the venue for VIP movement. The Maidan has four exits but only two were used on Friday, they claimed.

The state government also announced ex-gratia of Rs. 3 lakh each for the next of kin of the dead. A high level probe has been ordered, said home secretary Amir Subhani.

The Centre also announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and a compensation of Rs. 50,000 for the critically injured.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences and spoke to the Bihar chief minister to enquire about the stampede.

“The stampede in Patna is deeply saddening. I spoke to the Bihar CM about the situation. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured,” he tweeted.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi also expressed “shock and grief” over the deaths and injuries. “Dismayed at the unfortunate incident, Gandhi expressed the hope that the injured are being adequately attended to and conveyed her condolences to the families of those who passed away,” a Congress statement said.

Blame-game over tragedy

Meanwhile, Union ministers Ravishankar Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan are visiting Patna on Saturday to take stock of the situation.

The opposition BJP criticised the Jitan Ram Manjhi government for the “lapses” that resulted in the tragedy.

BJP leader CP Thakur, who visited the hospital, said: “Prima facie the stampede appears to be due to administrative lapses.”

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, in a tweet, squarely blamed the state government for the administrative failure, leading to the stampede.

Second tragedy in two years

This is the second such tragedy in Patna in less than two years. During the Chhath festival in November 2012, 21 people had died in a similar stampede.

The Gandhi Maidan has a capacity to accommodate up to 4.5-5 lakh people. It is the same venue where a series of explosions took place during the Lok Sabha campaign event of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that left six dead.

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