Update as of 3:50 a.m. EDT: The death toll from a stampede at a Hindu temple in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh rose to at least 115, Reuters reported citing local police officials, adding that authorities had called off a search for more victims in the second such incident at the temple site in seven years.
In 2006, the temple was witness to a stampede on the same 400-metre bridge, which claimed the lives of 50 pilgrims after they they jumped into the river below to escape the crush on the bridge, Reuters reported.
A stampede in India has left dozens dead and many more injured after thousands of people tried to flee from a bridge they thought was collapsing. Religious pilgrims headed for the Ratangarh temple, a remote forest temple in central India’s Datia District, erupted into panic when rumors spread that the bridge was going to fall.
According to Reuters, the railings broke on the bridge over the Sindh river leading to the temple, which sparked the chaos. An eyewitness told India Today that police tried to contain the surging crowd with batons.
"Police ... charge during the panic run worsened the situation, forcing many to jump off the bridge," 28-year-old Manoj Sharma, who lives in the nearby village of Bhander, told The Times of India.
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It’s unclear exactly how many people were on the bridge at the time of the deadly stampede, but local media reported that more than half a million pilgrims had gathered at the Ratangarh temple to celebrate the festival of Dussehra, according to USA Today.
Dussehra is an important Hindu festival celebrated in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The festival lasts for 10 days.
A deputy inspector general of police, Dilip Arya, told Reuters that the death toll had reached 91, and that 100 more people were injured. “Relief work tends to slow down after the sunset but will start in full swing from tomorrow morning," Arya said.
AP reported that among the worshipers killed during the stampede at the bridge in India on Sunday were 17 children and 31 women. Many of them were crushed under other pilgrims’ feet as they tried to flee. Others drowned after falling or jumping into the river below.
Some blamed the tragic event on official mismanagement. Ajay Singh in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly cited the lack of prior arrangements for medical aid and drinking water during the event, and noted that it took district officials seven hours to reach the spot where the stampede occurred, Zee News reported.
Others, like Ashock Argal, a federal lawmaker from the region, said the “unfortunate incident” was the result of the crowd.
"It is wrong to say there were any administrative lapses,” Argal told AFP. “The administration had taken steps and made foolproof arrangements to avoid any untoward incident.”
Hours after the stampede occurred, relatives of the dead or missing searched for their loved ones among the bodies that were lined up in groups on the bridge. According to India Today, the kin of those killed in the stampede will each get ₹1.5 lakh, or about $2,500. Anyone seriously injured in the event will get ₹50,000 ($820), and those who suffered minor injuries will be given ₹25,000 ($410)
This isn’t the first stampede to claim lives in India. According to Reuters, in February, at least 36 people were killed during the world’s largest religious festival, the Kumbh Mela, which 30 million people attended.