100 pilgrims killed in stampede at Indian festival

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 15, 2011 02:55

KOCHI, India  — A stampede of pilgrims returning from one of India's most popular Hindu festivals killed more than 100 people and injured 25 others, police said.

The stampede was set off Friday night when a group of pilgrims in a jeep drove into a crowd of worshippers walking along a narrow forest path as they returned from offering prayers at the hilltop Sabarimala shrine in the state of Kerala in southern India, said local police official Sanjay Kumar.

The annual two-month festival attracts millions of worshipers to the remote temple to the Hindu deity Ayyappan. The ceremony Friday marked the end of the festival, and an estimated 150,000 devotees were thought to have taken the narrow path out of the densely forested hills where the stampede took place, the Press Trust of India reported.

Millions of devotees make the pilgrimage each year and nearly 2,000 police officers were deployed near the shrine to prevent such accidents from happening, PTI reported. A small stampede last week killed one pilgrim, it said.

The difficulty in reaching the temple delayed relief operations, PTI reported.


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