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At Least 12 Die in Stampede at a Hindu Shrine in Kashmir

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SRINAGAR, Kashmir — At least 12 folks had been killed and greater than a dozen had been injured in a stampede early Saturday close to the town of Jammu in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, as 1000’s of devotees had been paying obeisance at a well-known Hindu shrine to mark the start of the brand new 12 months.

Hundreds of individuals had been packed inside a hall of the shrine, Mata Vaishno Devi, in the hilly city of Katra, when at about 2:30 a.m. a conflict broke out exterior, resulting in the stampede, police officers stated.

Dilbag Singh, the highest police officer of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises Katra, stated that officers had been fast to reply to emergency calls however that the “damage was already done.”

One of the devotees at the shrine, Bunty Singh, stated he, like 1000’s of others, had arrived to supply prayers simply after midnight, an auspicious time for a lot of Hindus to start out the primary day of a 12 months. But Mr. Singh, 45, a businessman from neighboring Punjab State, stated that the roads resulting in the shrine had been packed and that there was hardly any house to stroll.

“A sudden commotion broke out,” he stated. “Before the stampede, there was a noise for some time, as if people were fighting with each other.”

Deadly stampedes throughout non secular pilgrimages and festivals are frequent in India, the place public security measures are sometimes flouted by temple authorities. The stampedes are sometimes introduced on by overcrowding in small areas with few exit-control measures in place. In latest years, officers throughout the nation have been attempting to enhance public security at temples and shrines, that are visited by lots of of 1000’s of individuals every day. According to native officers, the temple authorities in Katra stated that they had taken the required security measures.

In October 2013, at least 115 folks died when 1000’s of spiritual pilgrims panicked that a slender bridge they had been crossing may be collapsing. About half a million worshipers had flocked that month to a temple in the northern Madhya Pradesh State for a competition. In April 2016, a sequence of explosions brought on by a fireworks show throughout a non secular competition at a temple in the southern Kerala State left 106 useless and lots of injured.

Manoj Sinha, India’s prime appointed official in the area, stated he had directed officers to analyze the stampede and to look into how such episodes might be averted in the long run.

Videos from Mata Vaishno Devi — which is tucked in a mountain about 5,200 ft above sea stage and is visited annually by thousands and thousands of Hindu pilgrims — confirmed 1000’s of individuals jostling for house close to the doorway to the shrine minutes earlier than the stampede. Later movies present ambulances dashing towards the temple and 1000’s of individuals attempting to depart.

Amit Chowdhary, a businessman from Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, stated he was amongst about two dozen individuals who fell as they noticed a enormous crowd attempting to depart by one of many shrine’s gates.

“When I fell, I thought the first day of this year was going to be the last day of my life,” Mr. Chowdhary stated. “People were moving over the dead bodies. Somehow I managed to pull myself up and ran for my life.”