Stampede kills 16 pilgrims, injures more than 50 in northern India

November 8th, 2011 - 10:50 pm ICT by BNO News  

HARIDWAR, INDIA (BNO NEWS) — At least sixteen Hindu pilgrims were killed on late Tuesday morning in a stampede during a religious ceremony in northern India, officials said. More than 50 others were injured.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered at the main gates of the headquarters of a Hindu group in the Indian city of Haridwar to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of religious Guru Pandit Sriram Sharma, who founded the Gayatri Pariwar.

Uttarakhand chief secretary Subhash Kumar told India’s Economic Times newspaper that the stampede happened at around 10:25 a.m. local time as Hindu devotees climbed stairs to cross a small bridge leading to the venue of the religious ceremony, which was organized at the headquarters of the All World Gayatri Pariwar organization, Shantikunj.

Initial reports indicate that a large number of people began rushing forward to make their offering, but some of the devotees passed out and stumbled at the front. Those in the back, however, continued pushing forward, triggering a stampede as panic broke out.

Indian media reported that a ‘holy fire’ had been set up at the place of offering and resulting smoke may have caused some of the Hindu pilgrims to pass out, leading to the stampede.

Among the at least sixteen fatalities were fourteen women and two men, police said, adding that they died of suffocation during the stampede. In addition, more than 50 others were injured, including some who remain in a critical condition.

In the last decade alone, nearly 1,000 people have died due to stampedes at religious ceremonies in India. On January 14, a huge melee at the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala left at least 104 people killed and more than 60 others injured.

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