Sunday, 13 October 2013

Madhya Pradesh temple stampede: Over 70 dead including women and children

Over 70 pilgrims including children were killed and more than 100 injured in a stampede at Ratangarh temple in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday morning. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has ordered a judicial inquiry to probe the tragedy.

At least 50 were killed in stampede, while others drowned after jumping off the bridge in panic. The Ratangarh "Mata" temple located about 55km from district headquarters and 405km north of the state capital.

"Total of 68 bodies have been recovered so far, and the count is on. Some others have died on way to hospital, so the toll might three digits," said a senior intelligence officer.

The tragedy was allegedly caused by rumour that the bridge on Sindh River, through which the pilgrims were heading towards temple, was collapsing after a tractor trolley rammed into it and fell into the river. There were more than 50,000 devotees around the spot.

Eyewitness Manoj Sharma, 28, told TOI on phone that "police lathicharge during the panic run worsened the situation, forcing many to jump off the bridge." He is a resident of Bhander village in Datia district was along with his friends to visit the temple when the tragedy took place.

Huge traffic jam on way to the temple as a result of the incident has hampered relief work. Irate mob started pelting stones at the police. Subdivisional officer of police (SDOP) BN Basave was also thrashed.

"The figure could be more than 50. We are yet to recover bodies from the river," Chambal range DIG DK Arya told TOI on phone.

The tragedy occurred 55km from the district headquarters when the pilgrims were crossing the Sindh river bridge to attend a religious ritual on the ninth day of the Durga festival at the Mandula Devi temple. In 2006 more than 50 pilgrims were washed away when water was released from the Manikheda dam in adjoining Shivpuri district.

"The casualties could be in three figures, we are waiting for final reports," says DGP Nandan Kumar Dubey. Police officials are on the spot to recover the bodies and send injured to hospital.

Chief secretary, DGP and ADG intelligence have flown to the chopper on the spot.

Senior BSP leader and former Congress Rajendra Bharti alleged that the district collector and SP were busy with election management in Basai — 85km from the district headquarters — notwithstanding the fact that there would be a massive gathering near the temple. The administrative officials claim it otherwise.

Team of more than 20 doctors have been dispatched to the spot, and an alert has been sounded in surrounding Shivpuri district. The casualty wards of district hospitals have been vacated. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while announcing a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh each. Leader of opposition Ajay Singh has appealed to the chief minister to increase the compensation amount.

It was a religious frenzy compounded by administrative failure led to a tragedy in 2006 when more than 50 pilgrims were killed while crossing Sindh river.

Sunday 13 October 2013


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