At least 22 people, including four women, died and 10 were injured when a stampede occurred at Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh on Monday.
Thousands of people had converged on various bathing ghats in the city for the holy dip. The stampede occurred when some people allegedly scaled a wall to enter one of the bathing ghats. As the rush was very heavy, the police and volunteers could not maintain the crowd resulting in the stampede, said Kulasekhar, deputy SP East Godavari district. He said the deceased are senior citizens and police are yet to establish their identity.
Only two bodies have been identified while the identification process for the remaining victims is going on at the mortuary of government general hospital in the city. The incident took place at the Pushkar Ghat. Bodies were seen lying on the steps leading to the ghat.
Chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has rushed to take stock of the situation.
Relief and rescue operations are under way.
The injured have been admitted to various hospitals in the city. Chandrababu Naidu is camping at the Pushkaram control room and monitoring the situation. Senior officials have been coordinating with medical teams to provide better medical facilities to the injured. Chaotic scenes were witnessed at various pushkaram ghats as officials failed to maintain the queue lines.
All the pre-Pushkaram preparations and reviews proved futile and officials blame the incident on "unprecedented" surge of pilgrims. Heart rending scenes were witnessed as the relatives kept on wailing inconsolably while many pilgrims were searching frantically for their near and dear ones. Many cases of missing have been reported.
Godavari 'Pushkaram', the once in 144-year event dedicated to worshipping rivers in the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana began on Monday.
The pushkaralu, which is observed once in 12 years, this time is considered auspicious from astronomical point of view as it is Maha Pushkaralu which comes once in 144 years.
The 'Pushakaram' is a similar to the 'Kumbh Mela' performed alongside rivers elsewhere in the country and taking holy dip is the main ritual of the festival.
The two state governments have made elaborate arrangements in terms of convenience of pilgrims and also security for the smooth conduct of the event.
The stampede has brought to the fore the failure of the official machinery in making proper scientific ground work as the Godavari Pushkaram witnesses the second highest human gathering in the country after the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.
An estimated six crore pilgrims are likely to take the holy dip at various bathing ghats in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the 12-day river festival. Many pilgrims complained of exhaustion due to the high temperature and lack of moisture in the air. The old and feeble collapsed for want of drinking water. With officials stopping the vehicles about half a km away, the pilgrims were forced to walk during the hot sun.
Source: Times of India