At least 18 people, including children and women, mostly devotees, were killed and several others were injured in a stampede during Chhath festival celebrations in Patna on Monday evening, police said.
A district administration official said the incident took place when people were returning after offering prayers around sunset at Adalatganj ghat.
“This shocking incident took place after a temporary bridge made of bamboo collapsed due to heavy rush of people, mainly devotees and their family members,” a police official said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered an inquiry into the incident and announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to the next of kin of each of those killed, a district official said.
Hundreds of angry people, mostly relatives of the victims, protested against the government and shouted slogans against the chief minister and local administration at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), where all the bodies were brought for post mortem and the injured were admitted for treatment.
Satnarain Singh, a relative of a victim, told a news agency that what shocked him and others was that there was no doctor in the emergency ward of the hospital.
“Those seriously injured in the incident were at the mercy of God as doctors were not available in the emergency ward,” he said.
Sensing trouble after the incident, a large number of security personnel were deployed at the hospital and at different places in Patna.
District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh and Superintendent of Police Jayant Kant were camping at the hospital.
Over four lakh people from Patna and nearby areas gathered at different ghats here for Chhath celebration, officials said.
Opposition Rashtyriya Janata Dal blamed the state government for the incident.
Leader of opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who met the injured at the hospital, criticised the negligence over treatment of the injured.
Celebrated six days after Diwali, Chhath is dedicated to the Sun god. During the festival, married women observe fast for 36 hours, and devotees offer wheat, milk, sugarcane, bananas and coconuts to the Sun god.