123 killed in temple stampede in Himachal (Third Lead)

August 3rd, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Naina Devi (Himachal Pradesh), Aug 3 (IANS) Over 120 people were killed and 40 injured in a stampede at the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh when throngs of devotees panicked after someone spread a rumour that boulders were rolling down the popular hill shrine. Most of the dead were women and children. A majority of the victims were from neighbouring Punjab. A state government statement Sunday evening said that 123 people were killed and 40 injured in the accident.

Rescue operations at the shrine, located atop a hill, to reach which devotees have to walk the last few hundred metres on a steep gradient, were hit by inclement weather and lack of coordination among various agencies.

Additional Director General of Police D.S. Manhas told IANS from Shimla that the death toll could well mount further. He said most of the injured have been taken to the district headquarters of Bilaspur, 70 km from here, and Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, 30 km from here.

The temple is located 160 km from state capital Shimla, the popular hill resort in northern India.

The crowd of devotees had gathered at the temple on the occasion of the 10-day Shravan Ashtami fair that began Saturday. According to mythology, an eye of Sati, Lord Shiva’s consort, fell at the site during his tandav (dance of destruction), earning the place its name ‘Naina Devi’ - goddess’s eye. It is one of the most popular shrines in north India.

Manhas said that the stampede occurred when someone spread the rumour that boulders have started rolling down from the hill shrine. This led to panic and one of the safety barricades gave away under weight of rushing devotees, leading to their fall. In the resultant stampede, many died and were injured, he said.

The accident took place around 400 metres from the main temple.

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