11 devotees die in Indian temple stampede

An injured pilgrim being taken to hospital yesterday after a stampede at the Baidyanath Jyotirlinga temple complex.
An injured pilgrim being taken to hospital yesterday after a stampede at the Baidyanath Jyotirlinga temple complex.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • A stampede outside a temple killed at least 11 pilgrims in eastern India early yesterday after thousands tried to jump a queue that stretched for kilometres during a holy Hindu month.

The authorities said devotees who had gathered outside the temple complex overnight rushed towards the Baidyanath Jyotirlinga complex in Jharkhand state after news circulated that the gates were opening. Several devotees still sleeping in the enormous queue, more than 6km long, were trampled in the crush over a kilometre from the main gate between 4am and 4.30am, said additional director general of police in Jharkhand S.N. Pradhan.

A particularly large crowd of pilgrims had gathered before dawn yesterday, considered an auspicious date to visit the complex during the month of Shravan. The complex includes a main temple and 21 smaller ones devoted to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

"Many tried to rush to the head of the queue which led to chaos and, as some of them fell, the devotees got trampled," said Mr Pradhan.

A total of 11 people are confirmed dead after one more died in hospital, he added. Initial reports suggest about 20 others who were hurt are out of danger.

The police estimate there were around 100,000 to 150,000 devotees at the site yesterday.

Mr Nishikant Dubey, a lawmaker whose constituency includes the temple, said there were not enough facilities to manage the crowds, despite the fact that the temple has long drawn thousands of pilgrims.

He added that the pilgrims were anxious to get into the complex after trekking for long distances on foot to demonstrate their religious devotion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that he was "pained" by the loss of lives, and he prayed that "the injured recover quickly".

The Jharkhand government said 200,000 rupees (S$4,300) would be given as compensation to families of those killed, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline '11 devotees die in Indian temple stampede'. Print Edition | Subscribe