India: At least 68 killed by stampede in remote temple

A railing on the mountain path collapsed during the crush, sending dozens of people over the edge.

Naina Devi Temple 88 (photo credit: )
Naina Devi Temple 88
(photo credit: )
Pilgrims stampeded at a mountaintop Hindu temple in northern India on Sunday, and 68 people - all of them women and children - were killed in the crush that sent worshippers plummeting to their deaths over a broken railing. The devotees were attending a nine-day religious festival in the foothills of the Himalayas at the Naina Devi Temple, said district deputy police chief C.P. Verma. A railing on the mountain path collapsed during the crush, sending dozens of people over the edge, police said. Television channels showed blurred pictures of the lifeless bodies of several small children, apparently lying at the bottom of the path. Verma said 30 children and 38 women were killed, and 40 people were wounded. Police used a cable car to ferry down the dead and wounded and helicopters flew in to help in the rescue. At the Bilhaspur hospital, rescue workers unloaded the dead wrapped in brown blankets, laying out the bodies in rows so that relatives could identify them. Verma said the stampede may have been sparked by rumors of a landslide, but it was made worse when too many pilgrims tried to squeeze onto the narrow path. "At the moment our efforts are focused on rescue. Once that is complete we will investigate the cause," said Anurag Garg, another senior police officer. Deadly stampedes are a relatively common occurrence at temples in India, where large crowds - sometimes hundreds of thousands of people - congregate in small areas lacking the facilities to control such big gatherings. The pilgrims had come to the temple to celebrate Shravan Navratras, a nine-day festival that commemorates the Hindu Goddess Shakrti, or Divine Mother. Sunday was the second day of the festival and authorities sought to reassure other pilgrims. "There is no need to panic, everything is normalized now," Verma said.