At least 11 people were killed and more than 50 injured in a pre-dawn stampede near Belabagan Durga temple in Deoghar town, Jharkhand, Monday, agencies report.
Most of the victims are from Uttar Pradesh state or Nepal. The injured are being treated in a hospital.
The number of the dead and injured is likely to go up, said a police officer.
Deoghar Sadar Hospital civil surgeon Dr Diwakar Kamat confirmed the number of those dead.
“Eleven devotees, mostly women, died. Though we have to wait for post-mortem report, asphyxia is one possible reason”, said the civil surgeon.
Thousands of devotees flock to the temple in the Hindu month of Shrawan (August) each year to offer the holy water of the river Ganga to Lord Shiva at the town’s Baidyanath temple.
According to the district administration, devotees were standing in two serpentine queues from midnight. The stampede occurred at 4.40 am when thousands of impatient pilgrims jumped the queue and made a dash for the Baidyanath temple to have an early ‘darshan’ (view of the deity).
The town sees the maximum crowd on Mondays. Last week, around a lakh people had converged at the temple.
The district administration had held a review meeting of arrangements on Sunday to monitor the situation.
The town has witnessed stampedes in the past as well. In August 2007, at least five women were killed and 11 injured in a stampede at the Baba Baidyanath temple.
MP takes responsibility
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Godda, Nishikant Dubey said the administration can be held responsible for not being able to make adequate arrangements that led to the stampede.
“I take full responsibility of this. I find myself guilty. Eleven people have died. We all should be held responsible for not being able to make adequate arrangements. We will take lesson from this,” Dubey told ANI.
“There is a strong need to create infrastructure and there should be a time slot for offering prayers and for crowd management. We would like to appeal to the Centre and the state government to make a long-term plan for appropriate arrangements so that such incidents do not recur,” he said.
Modi expresses grief
After expressing grief over the incident, Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das directed officials to monitor the rescue efforts and also to ensure the best treatment for those injured.
He announced a compensation of Rs 200,000 to the kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to the injured.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed grief at the loss of lives.
“Pained at loss of lives due to the stampede in Jharkhand. My thoughts & prayers are with the families of the deceased in this hour of grief,” the PM tweeted. “I pray that the injured recover quickly. I spoke to CM Raghubar Das ji on the incident,” he said.
Ways to prevent stampedes
Deaths from stampedes are relatively frequent at religious events in India.
Although no crowded event is immune from tragedies worldwide, organizers can prevent them by taking steps based on the size of the crowd and capacity of the event.
Besides security personnel, local volunteers can play a big role by constantly monitoring changes in crowd behavior and calming them whenever there is a panic situation.