Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Hathras stampede: Over 120 killed at religious event in India


Video comment, Dozens killed in stampede in India

  • author, Sharanya Hrishikesh
  • Role, BBC News

At least 121 people have been killed in a stampede during a religious gathering in northern India, officials say.

The incident took place at a Hindu religious festival in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh.

The process of identifying the victims, including a large number of women and some children, is still ongoing.

Survivors described how the disaster struck as they tried to leave the scene in the village of Pholray.

The cause of the accident is not yet clear. Eyewitnesses said the exit was very narrow and as people were leaving, a violent dust storm caused confusion and panic, causing many people to be run over.

An eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, told the BBC that everything was “going well” until “suddenly I heard screaming and before I knew it people were falling on top of each other”.

“It crushed a lot of people and I couldn’t do much. I’m lucky I survived.”

“When the sermon ended, everyone started running out of the house,” a woman named Shakuntala told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“People fell into a sewer on the side of the road. They started falling on top of each other and people were crushing them to death.”

The chief medical officer of neighbouring Etah district, Umesh Kumar Tripathi, told reporters that the “stampede” had killed at least three children.

A spokesman for a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh state told the BBC that it would “take hours to give the final toll”.

Horrific images from the scene are circulating online, and some videos show the injured being taken to hospitals in pickup trucks, tuk-tuks and even motorbikes.

A video seen by the BBC showed several bodies lying at the entrance to a local hospital, as relatives of the victims screamed for help.

“Such a huge incident has happened but not a single senior officer is here. Where is the management?” said a relative of the victims in another video.

The place was crowded with people, Kumar said, adding that a high-level committee has been formed to investigate the incident.

“The administration’s main focus is to provide all possible assistance to the injured and the families of the deceased,” he said.

A video clip published by the Indian news agency PTI showed the wounded being taken to the hospital for treatment.

“A post-mortem is underway and the matter is being investigated,” said Satya Prakash, an official in the neighbouring Etah district.

In Hathras, the screams of bereaved family members can be heard at the local hospital.

Many people are trying to find their loved ones, and many bodies are left unclaimed.

There is a shortage of ambulances, each carrying two or three bodies. Hathras is filled with despair and pain.

Accidents are routinely reported at religious events in India, where huge crowds gather in cramped spaces with little adherence to safety measures.

In 2018, about 60 people were killed after a train rammed into a crowd of people watching Dussehra celebrations, a Hindu festival.

In 2013, a stampede at a Hindu festival in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh killed 115 people.

Additional reporting by Abhishek Mathur in Hathras

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