NEW DELHI: A stampede outside a temple killed at least 11 pilgrims in eastern India early Monday after thousands tried to jump a queue that stretched for kilometers during a holy Hindu month, a police officer said.
Authorities said devotees who had massed outside overnight had rushed towards the Baidyanath Jyotirlinga temple complex in Jharkhand state after news circulated that the gates were opening.
Several devotees still sleeping in the enormous queue, more than six kilometers long, were trampled in the crush over a kilometer from the main gate between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m., said SN Pradhan, additional director general of police in Jharkhand.
“The first prayer ceremony is conducted by the temple priests and then the doors of the temple are opened for the devotees,” Pradhan told AFP.
“Many tried to rush to the head of the queue which led to chaos and as some of them fell, the devotees got trampled,” Pradhan said.
“Eleven people have now been confirmed dead after one more person succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. Initial reports suggest most of around 20 others who were injured in the stampede are out of danger.”
Photos showed the bodies of kanwarias, devotees to Lord Shiva dressed in saffron rags, lying on a concrete slab.
“Our initial estimates are that there were around 100,000 to 150,000 devotees there,” Pradhan said.
Nishikant Dubey, a lawmaker whose constituency includes the temple, said there were not enough facilities to manage the crowds, despite the fact it has long drawn thousands of pilgrims.
Dubey said pilgrims were anxious to get into the complex after trekking for long distances on foot to demonstrate their religious devotion.
“By the time many people reach the city, some after having walked over 60 miles on foot, many are very restless while having to stand in such a long queue,” Dubey told AFP.
Pradhan said additional police and other security were being deployed to the area around the complex to cope with the crowds.