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Overcrowding, lac8k8 apps downloadk of exits lead to stampede

墨雨云间开播 | 8k8 apps download | Updated: 2024-07-13 08:10:12

People carry a woman on a stretcher outside the Sikandrarao Hospital in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh state, India, on Tuesday. MANOJ ALIGADI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Severe overcrowding and a lack of exits contributed to the stampede at a religious function in northern India, authorities said on Wednesday, leaving at least 121 people dead as the faithful surged toward the preacher to touch him and chaos ensued.

A police report said more than 250,000 people attended the event, more than triple the 80,000 for whom organizers had taken permission. It was not clear how many made it inside the giant tent set up in a muddy field in a village in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state, about 200 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

Chinese Ambassador to India Xu Feihong mourned the victims on Tuesday, expressing condolences to their families.

"Shocked and saddened about the tragic events in Hathras, UP," Xu wrote on X soon after the tragedy on Tuesday.

"Deeply mourn for the lives lost and extend heartfelt sympathies to victims' families. Wish the injured a speedy recovery."

Both President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed their condolences to the bereaved families.

Among the 121 dead were 112 women and seven children, while 31 were injured, according to the state authorities.

"Local district administration is working on a war footing with ongoing efforts to recover and assist the injured," Brajesh Pathak, health minister of Uttar Pradesh, said, adding the administration is investigating the matter.

The state's Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told reporters that a crowd rushed toward the preacher, a Hindu guru known locally as Bhole Baba, to touch him as he was descending from the stage, and volunteers struggled to intervene.

After the sermon, the preacher was leaving in his car, while devotees started collecting dust and soil from the path of the vehicle, resulting in some people getting crushed in the water and mud nearby.

People fell on top of each other as they tumbled down a slope into a waterlogged ditch, according to witnesses.

The preacher's security personnel pushed the crowd back, causing more people to fall, according to officials.

Police officer Sheela Maurya, who was on duty on Tuesday, told reporters, "The entire crowd, including women and children, all tried to leave the site at once."

'Horrifying' scenes

Ajay Kumar from Aligarh city in the state, who attended the event, said the scenes were horrifying beyond belief.

"After the event, everyone wanted to exit the event suddenly and quickly, resulting in a stampede," Kumar said.

Among the dead was Ruby, 30, who had traveled more than 300 kilometers to attend the event, along with her father, Chedilal.

"I heard terrifying screams from women and there were bodies piled up on the ground near the exit," Chedilal told Reuters.

"I was scared, I ran away and started calling my daughter on the phone."

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

Adityanath was in Hathras, meeting those injured in the stampede. "Instructions have been given to the concerned officials to conduct relief and rescue operations … and to provide proper treatment to the injured," Adityanath wrote on X.

He has announced compensation of about $2,400 for the bereaved families and $600 for each person injured.

Manoj Kumar, 73, a farmer, said he was searching for his daughter-in-law, who came to attend the function and went missing after the stampede.

"We have not been able to find her anywhere," Kumar said, adding he had spent the entire night visiting all the local hospitals.

Manoj Kumar Jha, a member of the Indian Parliament, said both the state and federal governments "have failed to develop a sensitive approach toward crowd management".

"As a nation we are good at drawing crowds, but not good at managing them," Jha said.

Experts said the event violated safety norms.

"The function was held in a makeshift tent without ensuring multiple exit routes," Sanjay Srivastava, a disaster management expert, said.

A day after the stampede, waste littered the spot, partly inundated by rainfall. Some bamboo poles and a banner plastered with a picture of the preacher offered mute evidence of the tragedy.

Deadly crushes are relatively common at political gatherings and religious events in India, but Tuesday's is one of the worst stampedes in recent times.

In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in central Madhya Pradesh state trampled one another amid fears that a bridge would collapse. At least 115 were crushed to death or died in the river.

In 2011, more than 100 people died in a crush at a religious festival in the southern state of Kerala.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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