Death toll from India stampede rises to 116

More than a dozen people injured in crush in a village in Uttar Pradesh state’s Hathras district.

India Stampede
Women mourn next to the body of a relative outside Sikandrarao Hospital in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh [Manoj Aligadi/AP]

More than 100 people have been killed and more than a dozen injured in a stampede at a Hindu religious gathering in northern India, authorities say.

A large crowd gathered on Tuesday in a village in Uttar Pradesh state’s Hathras district, about 200km (125 miles) southeast of the national capital, New Delhi, for a sermon by a preacher, and a fierce dust storm sparked panic as people were leaving.

Many were crushed or trampled and fell on top of each other. Some collapsed into a roadside drain in the chaos.

At least 116 people died, most of them women and children, said Prashant Kumar, the director general of police in Uttar Pradesh.

Senior police officer Shalabh Mathur also confirmed 116 deaths and said at least 18 people were injured, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

The state’s chief medical officer, Umesh Kumar Tripathi, told reporters “many injured” have been admitted to hospital.

The stampede occurred as attendees rushed to leave the event with a religious leader named Bhole Baba, local media reported.

Unverified videos on social media showed what appeared to be bodies piled up on the ground outside a local hospital. Al Jazeera could not immediately verify the videos.

Police officer Rajesh Singh said overcrowding may have been a factor. Initial reports suggested more than 15,000 people had gathered for the event, which had permission for about 5,000.

India stampede
People mourn next to the bodies of victims of the stampede outside a hospital in Hathras [Reuters]

People gathered outside one mortuary in the town of Etah, where many of the dead were taken, seeking news of their relatives.

One survivor, Jyoti, who goes only by her first name, told local media that the stampede happened quickly as soon as the event ended.

“Everyone was in a rush to leave. … There was no way out, and people were falling on each other,” she said.

“When the sermon finished, everyone started running out,” Shakuntala, another woman who gave only one name, told the Press Trust of India news agency.

People crying outside the hospital
People mourn the death of their relatives outside a hospital in Hathras [Screengrab via Reuters]

State Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered an investigation into the incident.

“Instructions have been given to the concerned officials to conduct relief and rescue operations on war footing and to provide proper treatment to the injured,” he wrote on X.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced compensation of $2,400 to the next of kin of those who died and $600 to those injured in the “tragic incident”.

“My condolences are with those who have lost their loved ones. … I wish for the speedy recovery of all the injured,” Modi wrote on the social media platform X.

President Droupadi Murmu said the deaths were “heart-rending” and offered her “deepest condolences”.

Deadly accidents are common at places of worship in India during major religious festivals when large crowds gather in small areas with few safety measures.

At least 112 people were killed in 2016 in an explosion caused by a banned fireworks display at a temple to mark the Hindu New Year. The explosion ripped through concrete buildings and ignited a fire at a temple complex in Kerala state, where thousands had gathered.

Another 115 devotees died in 2013 in a stampede at a bridge near a temple in Madhya Pradesh state in central India.

Up to 400,000 people had gathered in the area. The stampede occurred after a rumour spread that the bridge was about to collapse.

At least 224 pilgrims died and more than 400 were injured in a 2008 stampede at a hilltop temple in the northern city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies