July 14, 2024, 7:55 pm

India stampede: Death toll rises to 121

  • Update Time : Wednesday, July 3, 2024
  • 21 Time View
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Int’l Desk:

The death toll from a stampede at a Hindu religious congregation in northern India has risen to 121, authorities said on Wednesday, while a police report said the number of people present at the function was more than triple the permitted capacity.

The stampede on Tuesday was at Phulrai Mughal Garhi village in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh state, about 200 km (125 miles) southeast of New Delhi, where around 250,000 people gathered despite permission being given for only 80,000, according to the police first information report (FIR).

At least 121 people were killed and 31 were injured, according to state authorities, with the dead including 112 women and seven children.

At the Hathras district hospital, where several victims were taken, doctors told Reuters most of the deaths occurred due to suffocation.

“The injured are fewer because…if you get caught in a stampede, the injuries will mostly be fractures, scratches, or body pain, so most people got up and left,” said Neeta Jain, the doctor in charge of the hospital’s emergency ward.

The FIR described a scene of utter chaos when the preacher at the congregation, Surajpal, also known as ‘Bhole Baba’, was leaving in his car.

Thousands of devotees shouted and ran towards the car, crushing others still sitting in the gathering, according to the document. Some people also fell into an adjacent field of slush and mud and were trampled there.

In a letter to the district administrator, seen by Reuters, a junior official who was present at the event described similar scenes, stating the commotion began when devotees running towards the preacher’s vehicle were stopped by his staff, with many falling to the ground in the scuffle.

Some devotees ran towards open fields nearby to escape the stampede but slipped and fell in the path of the rest of the crowd, the letter stated.

Local media said the event was organised by a group of devotees, but did not identify anyone. ANI news agency, in which Reuters has a minority stake, said police were trying to ascertain the whereabouts of the preacher.

Police officials in Hathras were not immediately available for comment.

One of the people who died was Ruby, 30, who had travelled over 300 km (185 miles) to attend the congregation with her father, Chedilal.

“I heard terrifying screams from women (during the stampede) and there were bodies piled up on the ground near the exit. I was scared, I ran away and started calling my daughter on the phone,” Chedilal told Reuters.

After an agonising night of visiting different hospitals to locate his daughter, Chedilal said he finally found her body at the Hathras district hospital in the morning.

The location for the event, amid paddy fields next to a busy highway, was strewn with waste and partly inundated after rainfall on Wednesday morning. Some erected bamboo poles and a banner with a picture of the preacher remained the only evidence of the tragedy.

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