Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stampede at Hindu temple kills 145 in India

Sun. Aug. 3 2008
CTV.ca News

At least 145 people have died following a stampede of pilgrims during a religious festival at a mountaintop Hindu temple in India.

R.N. Dhoke, a senior police officer, said Sunday that authorities have taken the bodies to a hospital in the neighbouring state of Punjab. Autopsies will be performed there.

The disaster happened Sunday at the Naina Devi Temple, which is about 250 kilometres northeast of New Dehli, India's capital.

C.P. Verma, deputy police chief of the Bilaspur District in Himachal Pradesh state, said the stampede resulted from too many pilgrims trying to squeeze into a small area.

One news report said more than 3,000 worshippers had gathered at the temple to pray to a Hindu goddess as part of an annual festival.

State police Chief S.R. Mardi contradicted that view, saying the stampede occurred when a railing collapsed on the path leading up the mountain.

Rescue workers used a cable car at the temple to help remove the wounded from the mountaintop.

S. Vankat Narayan of ITN London told CTV Newsnet on Sunday from New Delhi that it's currently the rainy season in India.

The area where the disaster occurred is in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains, he said.

He suggested some people were trying to rush downhill to avoid inclement weather while others were trying to push up to the temple. All this put pressure on the railing that gave way.

Large crowds and a "certain amount of chaos" are a normal occurrence in India, which is home to more than 1.1 billion people, he said.

This becomes worse during religious festivals, Narayan added.

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