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19 Dead in stampede at Varanasi bridge during overcrowded religious event
October 15, 2016, 2:59 pm

Nineteen people, mostly women, were killed and many were injured in a stampede at a religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi on Saturday. The stampede broke out when thousands of devotees of a religious leader tried to cross a bridge at once.

Followers of Jai Gurudev, the leader of a local sect, were moving in a procession and far too many were on the narrow roads to the Rajghat bridge than sanctioned, say officials.

One man died of suffocation because of the surging crowds, which led to a commotion. Rumours that the bridge had collapsed fueled more chaos, said police chief Javeed Ahmed.

"They had sought permission for 5,000 persons but many more people reached and joined the procession. We are investigating crowd management and will take action against those responsible," Mr Ahmed said.

"There was a lot of chaos, all of us were pushed and shoved. Many people have died including my mother," said a witness quoted by AFP.

Jai Gurudev, who died in 2012, is among several charismatic self-styled "godmen" who enjoy cult-like following among thousands of followers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who represents Varanasi in parliament, said he had asked officials to ensure all possible help. He is in Goa for a meeting of BRICS nations.

TV visuals showed clothing and slippers piled one on top of the other as policemen cleared the debris. Traffic crawled for hours near the area because of a massive jam at the Rajghat bridge, one of the main connections in the city.

PM Modi and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav have each announced Rs. 2 lakh for the families of the dead.

Source: NDTV

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