Death toll in Jodhpur temple stampede rises to 224

October 2nd, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Oct 2 (IANS) The death toll in the Tuesday early morning stampede in an ancient hilltop temple here has been revised to 224, with police saying that one reason for the count going up was that many had taken their dead home from the mishap site itself. “We conducted a detailed survey in the last two days and found that the death toll was higher than our earlier estimates,” said Rajiv Dasot, inspector general of police, Jodhpur Thursday.

The survey, he said, revealed that some relatives had taken bodies of their kin directly home so they were not in the initial count of 149.

The disaster took place around 6 a.m Tuesday, less than three hours after the Chamunda Devi temple - built in 1460 as part of the Mehrangarh fort - opened for prayers on the occasion of the nine-day Navaratri festival and more than 10,000 worshippers rushed to reach the hilltop shrine.

“Most of those killed in the stampede were local residents and were in the age group of 20-30 years,” Dasot told IANS, adding that the toll could have been higher if the administration had not provided for a separate entry and exit gate for women and children and male devotees.

According to a district official, 46 of those injured are undergoing treatment in five hospitals and the condition of two is serious.

The reason for the stampede is still unclear. Eyewitnesses blamed it on the heavy rush of devotees and a tussle to reach the temple doors first. However, police say the stampede was triggered by a barricade collapsing.

K.S. Bains, director general of the Rajasthan state police, added that a power failure in the early hours of the fateful morning could have caused some of the devotes to slip.

The Rajasthan government has ordered a judicial inquiry by a retired high court judge who will submit the report within three months.

As the government counts the bodies, the tourist city of Jodhpur continues to be in shock. The temple reopened Wednesday, but the crowds were thin.

“Usually, we get heavy rush during the nine days of Navaratri. But since Wednesday not more than 400-500 people have visited the temple,” said Narpat, a flower seller near the shrine.

“I am a regular visitor to this temple and I have never seen such silence,” said G.S. Rathore, who has been offering prayers at the shrine for two decades.

Muslims in the city have also decided to keep Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations low key. “Many organisations have appealed that we tone down the festivities as the city has just gone through a horrific tragedy. We would certainly follow it,” said a resident, Mohammad Saddiq.

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