BHOPAL, India – A stampede on a bridge outside a Hindu temple killed at least 60 people in India Sunday and dozens more may have died after they leapt into the water below, police said.
“Sixty people are confirmed killed and the figure could reach 100,” local Deputy Police Inspector General D.K. Arya told AFP.
“More than 100 others have been injured” in the disaster in the Datia district of central Madhya Pradesh state, he added.
Arya said the stampede was triggered by rumors that the bridge might collapse after being hit by a heavy vehicle.
“There were rumors that the bridge could collapse after the tractor hit it,” he said. “Many people are feared to have fallen into the river and are unaccounted for.”
Other police sources said that some 20,000 people were on the bridge over the River Sindh when the stampede broke out.
Up to 400,000 devotees were already inside or around the temple in Datia district, which is around 350 kilometers (220 miles) north of the state capital Bhopal.
NDTV, an Indian television network, cited sources at the scene as saying the situation was exacerbated by police charging at the crowds with heavy wooden sticks known as lathis.
However Arya insisted “there was no baton-charge”.
Hindus are celebrating the end of the Navaratri festival, dedicated to the worship of the Hindu god Durga, which draws millions of worshippers to temples especially in northern India.
India has a long history of deadly stampedes at religious festivals, with at 36 people trampled to death back in February as pilgrims headed home from the Kumbh Mela religious festival on the banks of the river Ganges.
Some 102 Hindu devotees were killed in a stampede in January 2011 in the state of Kerala while 224 pilgrims died in September 2008 as thousands of worshippers rushed to reach a 15th-century hilltop temple in Jodhpur.