Deadly stampede at Indian temple

  • 10/08/2015

By Bhuvan Bagga

A stampede outside a temple has left at least 11 pilgrims dead in eastern India.

Panic ensued when thousands tried to jump a queue that stretched for kilometres during a holy Hindu month, authorities say.

Devotees who had massed outside overnight rushed towards the Baidyanath Jyotirlinga temple complex in Jharkhand state before dawn on Monday (local time) after news circulated the gates were opening.

Several still sleeping in the more-than-six kilometres long queue, were trampled in the crush over a kilometre from the main gate between 4am and 4:30am, said Jharkhand police chief SN Pradhan.

A particularly large crowd of pilgrims had gathered on what was considered an auspicious date to visit the complex during the month of Shravan, which includes a main temple and 21 smaller ones devoted to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

"The first prayer ceremony is conducted by the priests and then the doors of the temple are opened for the devotees," Pradhan said.

"Many tried to rush to the head of the queue which led to chaos and as some of them fell, the devotees got trampled," he said.

"Eleven people have now been confirmed dead after one more person succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. Initial reports suggest most of around 20 others injured are out of danger."

Photos showed the bodies of kanwarias, devotees to Lord Shiva dressed, in saffron rags, laying on a concrete slab.

Pilgrims were seen being taken on stretchers into a hospital.

"Our initial estimates are that there were around 100,000 to 150,000 devotees there," Pradhan said.

Nishikant Dubey, an MP whose constituency includes the temple, said there were not enough facilities to manage the crowds.

He said pilgrims were anxious to get inside after trekking for long distances on foot to demonstrate their devotion.