Stampedes at temples and other religious places in India have claimed nearly 700 lives in the past eight years. At least 63 people were killed and 15 injured on Thursday when a gate at Kripalu Maharaj’s ashram at Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh collapsed during distribution of food on the occasion of a ritual, for which nearly 10,000 people had converged. A glance at Thursday’s turn of events at UP ashram near Lucknow.
Dozens more were injured in the panic at the temple in Pratapgarh district, 650km (400 miles) south-east of Delhi.
All of the dead identified so far are women and children, police say. The temple gate was still being built.
Hundreds of people have been killed in stampedes at crowded Indian temples in recent years.
‘Counted all the bodies’
Thursday’s disaster happened at a popular Ram Janaki temple in the town of Kunda in Pratapgarh district, about 25km (15 miles) north of the city of Allahabad.
The temple is owned by a Hindu holy man, Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj, who police say was marking the anniversary of the death of his wife with a ritual feast.
Thousands of people had gathered for the ceremonial feast and free distribution of clothes – the stampede occurred when people scrambled to collect the offerings being handed out.
Local journalists told the BBC they were mostly poor people from local villages.
Police officials said an iron gate leading to the temple complex collapsed, leading to a crowd surge.
“We have now counted all the bodies and they include 37 children and 26 women who had come to collect free gifts,” assistant superintendent of police SP Pathak told AFP news agency from the scene of the disaster.
The BBC’s Ram Dutt Tripathi in the state capital, Lucknow, said the temple gate was under construction when it collapsed.
Emergency teams and ambulances were rushed to the site, some from neighbouring districts and the injured have been taken to hospitals.
Eyewitnesses say it took a while for help to arrive and there was no-one on hand initially to offer them any assistance.
There have been a number of similar accidents in India in which large numbers of people congregate in an area ill-equipped to handle big gatherings.
In 2008, nearly 300 people were killed in stampedes and scores injured in two different Hindu temples in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh states.