UP survivors recount stampede horror

There was barely a handful of police personnel to man thousands of devotees, they say

UP survivors recount stampede horror

Survivors of the stampede at the Ratangarh temple in Madhya Pradesh have narrated different stories for the tragedy as they recounted the horror that claimed 115 lives, including those of women and children, and left hundreds others injured on Sunday.

The deceased included as many as 30 devotees from Jalaun district of Uttar Pradesh, barely 100 km from Madhya Pradesh's Datia district, where the temple is situated.

A majority of the victims were from Konch area in the district, officials said.

The survivors, who arrived at Jalaun, said that the arrangements at the temple that attracted a large number of devotees from other states, including UP and Rajasthan, were pitiable.

“There was barely a handful of police personnel to man a crowd of thousands,” said one of them.

The stampede occurred following rumors that the railings of the bridge over the Sindh river had given in and the bridge itself could collapse anytime. The devotees who were crossing the bridge made a dash for safety causing a stampede, the survivors said.

Other survivors blamed the lathicharge by the police for the tragedy.

“The lathicharge added to the chaos as people started running to save themselves,'' said another survivor.

Some survivors said that the stampede occurred after some people tried to catch a pickpocket who was trying to flee with the purse of a devotee. Others said it occurred following rumours that  a tractor-trolley had dashed against the railing of the bridge and it had broken.

Violation of rules

They also alleged that the police had allowed a large number of vehicles to cross the bridge in violation of the rules. According to the rules, the vehicles are not allowed on the bridge during the time when there is a heavy rush of devotees at the temple.

“There was very little space for the ordinary devotees on the bridge as the vehicles had been parked there,'' they claimed. The temple being situated barely a few kilometers from Uttar Pradesh's Jhansi town, a large number of devotees from Jhansi, Jalaun and other neighbouring districts throng it during the “navaratri”, the nine-day long festival during which Hindus worship the goddess Durga.

Officials in Jalaun said that the number of dead from the district could go up as many of the injured from the district were in critical condition.

The district authorities said that they were trying to provide all possible relief to the victims of the tragedy.

Five devotees, who were returning after worshipping at Ratangarh temple, were killed when the tractor-trolley in which they were traveling collided with a truck in Jhansi district on Monday. Twenty five others were injured in the mishap, police here said.

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