The death toll of Hindu devotees who were killed while returning from the southern temple town of Sabarimala in Kerala rose to 102, with many more injured, said reports.
The bizarre incident took place at Pulmedu near Vandiperiyar in Kerala’s Idukki district on Friday night when a bus collided with a jeep and ran over hundreds of pilgrims walking on a narrow road leading to Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. It triggered chaos among the devotees and resulted in stampede, thus killing more than 100.
Kerala Temple Affairs Minister Ramachandran Kadannappally told Reuters that 54 of the pilgrims were so far identified including five children and most of them were from nearby Tamil Nadu state. Injured pilgrims were taken to hospitals in nearby towns of Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Kottayam.
The Friday tragdy was the third to happen in Sabarimala. In 1952, a cracker shed fire killed many pilgrims while in 1999 a stampede in Pampa resulted in a tragedy.
The rescue operations are extremely difficult as the incident occurred in a dense forest where the roads are very narrow, the minister said.
“More people appear to have died of the stampede than from the collision between two vehicles,” Rahul Easwar, a relative of the ‘Thanthri’ (head) of the Sabarimala shrine, told the media.
Friday was the last day of Sabarimala annual pilgrimage when hundreds of thousands of people visit the temple. Chief Minister of the state is expected to visit the area on Saturday and an enquiry into the whole incident is likely to be announced by him.
A control room has been opened in Kumily and enquiries can be made on telephone numbers: 91-4869-222049, 252244.