India’s temple stampede claims 91

INDIA-BRIDGE-STAMPEDEA STAMPEDE on a bridge outside a Hindu temple killed more than 90 people in India on Sunday, with many of the victims leaping to their deaths in the water below.

Police warned that the number could rise further as medics struggled to make their way through hordes of pilgrims to reach the scene of the tragedy – the latest in a string of disasters at religious festivals.

While officials said the panic appeared to have been sparked by a false rumour, witnesses said that the situation escalated when police weighed in with batons.

“The death toll has risen to 91 and 10 others are in a critical condition,” Deputy Police Inspector D.K. Arya told AFP after the tragedy in the Datia district of central Madhya Pradesh state.

Arya, who had earlier put the number of dead at 60, said that those in the most critical condition were being treated in Datia’s Government Hospital.

Police and state government officials said the stampede at the Ratangarh temple was triggered by rumours that the bridge might collapse after being struck by a heavy vehicle around lunchtime.

“There were rumours that the bridge could collapse after the tractor hit it,” said Arya. “Many people are feared to have fallen into the river.”

Other police sources said that some 20,000 people were on the bridge over the River Sindh when the stampede broke out.

Large crowds began converging on the site from early morning, according to witnesses, as Hindus celebrate the end of the Navaratri festival.

The festival is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga, which draws millions of worshippers to temples, especially in northern and central India.

Up to 400,000 devotees were already inside or around the temple in Datia district, which is about 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of the state capital Bhopal, when the stampede took place.

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