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147 die in Indian temple stampede

New Delhi, September 30, 2008

At least 147 people died in a stampede at a temple in the Indian desert state of Rajasthan as Hindus gathered to begin one of the most important religious festivals of the year, police said Tuesday.

A handful of people fell while climbing a steep slope toward the Chamunda temple, sited inside a hilltop fort near the city of Jodhpur, triggering the crush, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.

'People were falling over one another. Many ran but were trampled under the feet of thousands,' Anubhav, a witness, said.

Other witnesses said too many people were trying to pass through a narrow part of the climb at the same time. Many suffocated after they fell.

'We have a final figure of 147 people died and 55 injured,' Rajiv Dasoth, an inspector-general with the Rajasthan police, said. 'The situation is under control and all the injured are being taken care of in hospitals.'

Officials said the crowds were especially large Tuesday, as pilgrims gathered for the start of the nine-day Navratri festival.

'The stampede started after a barricade near the temple broke and there was huge confusion and people started running down a steep slope and fell on each other,' Dasoth, said.

Local television showed volunteers carrying bodies and trying to revive them on the street. One child cried over her father's lifeless body, wailing 'Daddy, please get up'.

Bodies were piled high in a local hospital, with the injured writhing in pain as medical staff rushed to help, a Reuters photographer said.

'We will definitely conduct an inquiry and if we find people were negligent, we will definitely take action,' Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria told reporters.

Last month, a stampede outside a mountaintop Hindu temple in northern India killed at least 145 pilgrims.

Authorities ordered an investigation into that disaster, which occurred after rumours of a landslide triggered panic among pilgrims who ran down a narrow mountain trail from the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh, only to meet thousands of people walking up.

In January 2005, at least 265 Hindu pilgrims, including several women and children, were killed near a remote temple in India's Maharashtra state. - Reuters




Tags: India | stampede |

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