Naina Devi ,3 Aug, In the worst-ever temple tragedy in Himachal Pradesh, at least 145 devotees, including 30 children have been killed and more than 50 injured in a stampede on Sunday at the Naina Devi shrine triggered by rumours of a landslide.
The bodies, mostly of people from Patiala, reached Bhai Jaitta civil hospital in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, which is about 40km from the temple site, for post mortem, Ropar Deputy Commissioner B Purshartha said on Sunday.
Rumours of a landslide and rolling down of boulders from a nearby hilltop spread fear among the devotees resulting in the stampede as a large number of people trekking up and returning from the shrine ran into each other in a bid to escape.
Braving heavy rains, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 pilgrims had gathered at the popular temple to offer prayers on the occasion of ‘Navratra’, a nine-day religious festival involving fasting in reverence to Goddess Durga worshipped as the symbol of power.
The incident took place at around 1000 hrs, Additional District Magistrate of Bilaspur C P Verma said.As men, women and children waited in a serpentine queue to have a glimpse of the deity, suddenly all hell broke loose with people running helter skelter following the rumour of the landslide.
Children and women clutching the hands of their near and dear ones got separated in the rush to escape the landslide, realising little that they were hurtling to another form of death.
As devotees tried to outpace each other to find an escape route, they jumped over the railing along the narrow road and steep staircase to the temple, setting off a commotion and panic.
Coming under the weight of the surging pilgrims, the railing collapsed, sending many people plummeting down.Several women and children, who could not jump the railing and stuck to the regular path, were trampled upon, witnesses said.
Some devotees died of suffocation and 30 children were among the victims, Himachal Pradesh (Home) P C Kapoor said in Shimla, about 140km from the temple.He said there was no report of a foreigner dying in the stampede.
The condition of six of the injured was serious, Ropar Deputy Commissioner said.The injured were taken to hospitals in Anandpur Sahib, Ropar and Chandigarh in Punjab and hospitals close to Naina Devi, Kapoor said.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal cut short his visit to Chamba, where he had gone to attend the closing ceremony of an international fair, reached Naina Devi and visited the injured at the civil hospital at Bilaspur.
Death and cries permeated the atmosphere in and around the civil hospital in Anahdpur Sahib as people went past each and every body lined up looking for their near and dear ones.
A man whose all the three children are missing after the stampede at Naina Devi shrine is in deep shock as he visited the Anahdpur Sahib civil hospital looking for them.
Jawahar Khurana, who belonged to Rajpura in Punjab, is frantically looking for his three missing children Mohit, Vikram and Tarun at the civil hospital.
"Since I received the information about the stampede I rushed the spot in search of my three children who had gone to pay obeisance at the hilltop shrine. I fail to understand why the God was so cruel to us", a sobbing Khurala barely mumbled.
Sewak Ram, who lost at least five members of his family, said in a choked voice that "everything was going smooth but when the police used cane charge on pilgrims the situation turned ugly."
The people from nearby areas of Anandpur Sahib have set up a community kitchen close to the hospital.Himachal Pradesh government announced a magesterial inquiry into the incident and compensation of Rs one lakh to next of the kin of the dead.
Himachal MP Anurag Thakur, who is the son of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, visited the injured at the hospital.Thakur said the state government would take all possible steps to help the injured and those whose relatives had been killed.
VP expresses shock over loss of lives at stampede
Vice-President Hamid Ansari expressed his shock and grief over loss of lives at stampede at Naina Devi temple in Bilaspur district in Himachal Pradesh that claimed the lives of 130 pilgrims and left scores injured.
He conveyed his deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured in the incident.Around 130 pilgrims were killed and scores injured in the stampede at the temple located at about 160 km from Shimla.
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee also condoled the loss of lives in the stampede at the Naina Devi temple.He also expressed his sorrow over the death of around 40 agriculture workers in a road accident in Lakhi Sarai district of Bihar.
Chatterjee also expressed his shock at the bomb blast that claimed at least two lives in the slum areas at Chitpur in West Bengal.
BADAL, KALIA CONDOLES NAINA DEVI TRAGEDY
Chandigarh, August 3: Punjab Chief Minister, S. Parkash Singh Badal today expressed deep sorrow at the unfortunate tragedy in which over a hundred persons were reportedly killed near the historic Mata Naina Devi shrine in Himachal Pradesh. He also conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved families.
According to CM’s Media Advisor, Mr. Harcharan Bains, immediately on receipt of information of the incident, the Chief Minister spoke to the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. PK Dhumal and offered all possible assistance. He further directed the Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of Police, Ropar to reach Anandpur Sahib along with teams of doctors and paramedics to provide immediate first aid to the injured. Chief Minister has also ordered the district administration to make proper arrangements to sent the bodies at the native places.
Till reports last received, more than 100 bodies and around 20 injured persons had been brought to Anandpur Sahib and Nangal Civil hospitals, which are located at a distance of around 20 kms from Naina Devi shrine. The DC and SSP along with Civil Surgeon of the district were camping at Anandpur Sahib to supervise local arrangements, he added.
Meanwhile Local Government, Industries and Commerce Minister Mr. Manoranjan Kalia and Information and Public Relations Minister Mr. Bikram Singh Majithia also expressed their shock at the tragedy. SAD President and Lok Sabha MP Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal also joined others in conveying his condolences to the members of the deceased families.
SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL CONDOLES AT THE NAINA DEVI TRAGEDY
Chandigarh, August 3: Shiromani Akali Dal President and Lok Sabha Member Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal expressed profound grief over tragic incident which occurred at Mata Naina Devi Shrine in Himachal Pradesh early this morning in which 100 devotees died and more than 200 others injured following a stampede.
Mr. Badal also expressed his heart felt sympathies with the members of the deceased families and prayed to the Almighty to give strength to bear this irreparable loss and grant peace to the departed souls.
On the directions of SAD President Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal, hundreds of youth Akali Dal workers has already rushed at the Anandpur Sahib and Nangal Civil hospitals to render all possible help as well as blood donation also.