Over 100 killed in stampede at India religious event

At least 116 people have died in a crush at a religious gathering in northern India, according to police inspector Gen Shalabh Mathur. The tragic incident occurred during a satsang (a Hindu religious event) in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh state. The victims, which include a significant number of women and some children, are still being identified.

Survivors recounted how the disaster unfolded as they attempted to leave the event in Mughalgarhi village. The cause of the crush remains unclear. Witnesses reported that the exit was too narrow, and when people tried to leave, a fierce dust storm caused confusion and panic, resulting in many people being trampled.

An eyewitness, who requested anonymity, told the media 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 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, reported that the “stampede” had left at least three children dead. A spokesperson for a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh told the media it would “take hours to release the final tally”.

Distressing images from the site are being circulated online. Some videos show the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk-tuks, and even motorbikes. A clip seen by the media 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?”

Mr. Kumar noted that the venue had been overcrowded and 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. “The procedure of post-mortem is underway, and the matter is being investigated,” official Satya Prakash from 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, and many bodies remain unclaimed. There is a shortage of ambulances, with each one bringing two to three bodies. Hathras is filled with despair and pain.

Accidents are commonly 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 killed 115 people.

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