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At Least 12 Die in Stampede at a Hindu Shrine in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Not less than 12 individuals have been killed and greater than a dozen have been injured in a stampede early Saturday close to the town of Jammu within the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, as hundreds of devotees have been paying obeisance at a well-known Hindu shrine to mark the start of the brand new 12 months.

Lots of of individuals have been packed inside a hall of the shrine, Mata Vaishno Devi, within the hilly city of Katra, when at about 2:30 a.m. a conflict broke out exterior, resulting in the stampede, police officers mentioned.

Dilbag Singh, the highest police officer of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which accommodates Katra, mentioned that officers had been fast to answer emergency calls however that the “harm was already executed.”

One of many devotees on the shrine, Bunty Singh, mentioned he, like hundreds of others, had arrived to supply prayers simply after midnight, an auspicious time for a lot of Hindus to begin the primary day of a 12 months. However Mr. Singh, 45, a businessman from neighboring Punjab State, mentioned that the roads resulting in the shrine have been packed and that there was hardly any area to stroll.

“A sudden commotion broke out,” he mentioned. “Earlier than the stampede, there was a noise for a while, as if individuals have been combating with one another.”

Lethal stampedes throughout non secular pilgrimages and festivals are frequent in India, the place public security measures are sometimes flouted by temple authorities. The stampedes are sometimes introduced on by overcrowding in small areas with few exit-control measures in place. Lately, officers throughout the nation have been making an attempt to enhance public security at temples and shrines, that are visited by tons of of hundreds of individuals every day. In response to native officers, the temple authorities in Katra mentioned they’d taken the required security measures.

In October 2013, at least 115 people died when hundreds of religious pilgrims panicked {that a} slender bridge they have been crossing is perhaps collapsing. About half 1,000,000 worshipers had flocked that month to a temple within the northern Madhya Pradesh State for a competition. In April 2016, a sequence of explosions brought on by a fireworks show throughout a spiritual competition at a temple within the southern Kerala State left 106 useless and tons of injured.

Manoj Sinha, India’s high appointed official within the area, mentioned he had directed officers to research the stampede and to look into how such episodes may very well be averted sooner or later.

Movies from Mata Vaishno Devi — which is tucked in a mountain about 5,200 ft above sea stage and is visited annually by thousands and thousands of Hindu pilgrims — confirmed hundreds of individuals jostling for area close to the doorway to the shrine minutes earlier than the stampede. Later movies present ambulances speeding towards the temple and hundreds of individuals making an attempt to depart.

Amit Chowdhary, a businessman from Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, mentioned he was amongst about two dozen individuals who fell as they noticed an enormous crowd making an attempt to depart by means of one of many shrine’s gates.

“Once I fell, I believed the primary day of this 12 months was going to be the final day of my life,” Mr. Chowdhary mentioned. “Folks have been shifting over the useless our bodies. Someway I managed to tug myself up and ran for my life.”

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