Indian holy river stampede toll rises

  • 14/07/2015

A stampede on the banks of a holy river in southern India has killed at least 27 pilgrims.

The stampede broke out at around 8am on Tuesday (local time) in Rajahmundry, on the border of the twin states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, about two hours after the start of the Maha Pushkaralu festival which sees thousands of people bathe in the waters of the Godavari river.

"Twenty-seven people have now been confirmed dead in the stampede and another 29 are injured," a spokesman for Andhra Pradesh's Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said after police earlier put the number of dead at five.

"At least two of the 29 injured are critical," the spokesman Parakala Prabhakar said.

While the identities of all the victims had yet to become clear, a senior police officer said the dead included at least four women and a 15-year-old girl.

"The incident happened as the first set of worshippers were coming out of the river after taking a dip and then got in the way of others who wanted to be in the water at an auspicious time," A. Srinivasan Rao, a deputy superintendent of police in Andhra Pradesh, said.

In a statement posted on his official Twitter account, Prime Minster Narendra Modi said he was "deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Rajahmundry" and offered condolences to the families of victims, as well as prayers for survivors.

The chief minister's spokesman Prabhakar said that an ex-gratia compensation payment of one million rupees (around NZ$23,625) had already been approved for victims of the stampede and the state government would bear the full medical costs of the injured.