July 13, 2024

Crush at India religious event kills more than 120 dead

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At least 121 people have been killed in a crush at a religious gathering in northern India, officials have said.

The incident took place at a satsang (a Hindu religious event) in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state.

The victims, including a large number of women and some children, are still being identified.

Survivors have described how the disaster unfolded as they tried to leave the event in Phulrai village.

It is not yet clear what led to the crush. Witnesses said the exit was too narrow and when people were leaving, a fierce dust storm led to confusion and panic, causing many people to become trampled.

An eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, told us everything was “going fine”, until “all of a sudden I heard screams and before I knew it, people were falling on each other”.

“Many were crushed and I couldn’t do much. I am just lucky to have survived.”

“When the sermon finished, everyone started running out,” a woman named only as Shakuntala told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“People fell in a drain by the road. They started falling one on top of the other and got crushed to death.”

Umesh Kumar Tripathi, chief medical officer from the neighboring district of Etah, told reporters the “stampede” had left at least three children dead.

A spokesperson for a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh told us it would “take hours to release the final tally”.

Distressing images from the site are being circulated online. Some videos showed the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even motorbikes.

A clip seen by the BBC showed several bodies left at the entrance of a local hospital as relatives screamed for help.

“Such a huge accident has happened but not a single senior officer is present here,” a relative in another video said. “Where is the administration?”

Kumar said the venue had been overcrowded, adding that a high-level committee had been formed to investigate the incident.

“The primary focus of the administration is to provide all possible help to the injured and kin of the deceased,” he said.

A video shared by news agency PTI showed the wounded being brought to a hospital for treatment.

“Procedure of post-mortem is underway and the matter is being investigated,” official Satya Prakash in the neighboring district of Etah said.

In Hathras, the screams of distraught family members can be heard in the local hospital.

Many people are trying to find their loved ones, many bodies are unclaimed.

There is a shortage of ambulances – each one is bringing two to three bodies. Hathras is filled with despair and pain.

Accidents are routinely reported at religious events in India, as huge crowds gather in tight spaces with little adherence to safety measures.

In 2018, around 60 people were killed after a train rammed into a crowd watching celebrations for Dusshera, a Hindu festival.

In 2013, a crush at a Hindu festival in the central state of Madhya Pradesh had killed 115 people.

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