The death toll in the stampede during Navratri festivities near a temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Datia district has climbed to 115, with a number of people who had carried away the bodies of their relatives turning them up for autopsy.
The stampede, which also left over 100 injured, was triggered by rumours on Sunday that a river bridge the devotees were crossing was about to collapse.
“So far, we have received reports of 115 deaths in the stampede,” Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) D.K. Arya told PTI from Ratangarh.
The DIG said a number of people, who had carried away the bodies of their near and dear ones, are now turning up for autopsy, which is mandatory for taking compensation.
The State government had ordered a judicial inquiry into the mishap which was a shocking rerun of the tragedy at the same site in 2006 when over 56 pilgrims were washed away after water was released in the Sindh river from upstream.
After the 2006 tragedy, the State government had constructed a bridge over the river but mishap took place on it allegedly due to poor mismanagement of the crowd that gathered in lakhs from the nearby districts and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Datia district’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) R.S. Gupta said that autopsies on 111 bodies were conducted till Monday morning.
Police had earlier said that 89 people, including 31 women and 17 children, were killed in the mishap.
Mr. Arya, while noting that the death toll could go up, said that over 100 people were also injured.
The festivities turned into a tragedy as devotees from Datia and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh thronged the Durga temple to offer prayers on the occasion of Navratri at Ratangarh, about 60 km from the district headquarters and around 320 km away from the State capital Bhopal.
Unconfirmed reports said that the stampede took place as some people were trying to jump the queue and police used batons to control them.
The State government, with the approval of the State Election Commission in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, has announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 1.5 lakh to the kin of those killed in the stampede.
The government also announced an assistance of Rs. 50,000 each to the seriously injured and Rs. 25,000 each for those who suffered minor injuries in the mishap.
BJP vice-president Uma Bharti and Union Minister of State for Power (Independent Charge) Jyotiraditya Scindia would be visiting the area on Monday.