Several dead in stampede at religious shrine in Kashmir


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DEVELOPING STORY,

Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in northern India, with tens of thousands visiting to offer prayers every day.

At least 12 people died and 13 were injured in a stampede at a religious shrine in the early hours of Saturday in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.

“At least 12 people lost their lives and 13 are injured,” one senior government official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

“The toll could be higher as the route to the hilltop shrine was packed with devotees trying to do the customary new-year visit and prayers,” he said.

Other news reports said that as many 20 people have been injured.

The official Twitter account of India’s CNN-News18 also confirmed the reported stampede and the casualties. Images aired by the television station also showed several ambulances rushing to the site of the incident.

The Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in northern India, with tens of thousands visiting to offer prayers every day.

Another disaster-management official confirmed the death toll, saying the stampede took place at about 2:45 am local time (21:15 GMT).

In a statement posted on social media, Indian President Rashtrapati Bhavan said he was “wery distressed to know that an unfortunate stampede claimed lives of devotees at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhavan.”

“My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. I wish speedy recovery to those injured,” he added.

The office of the Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir said that a “high level inquiry” has been ordered” to look into the incident.

“Extremely saddened by the loss of lives,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter, adding that he was in touch with local officials.

“Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon,” Modi said.

Deadly stampedes are fairly common during Indian religious festivals, where large crowds gather in small areas with few safety or crowd control measures.

In October 2016, at least 24 people were killed and dozens injured in a stampede at a Hindu religious ceremony on the outskirts of Varanasi, a city in Uttar Pradesh state known for its temples.

In October 2013, a stampede in Madhya Pradesh state in central India killed more than 110 people, mostly women and children.

Read the full article at: aljazeera.com


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