24 killed in stam­pede ahead of Hindu ser­vice

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION + WORLD -

At least 24 peo­ple were killed and 20 oth­ers in­jured in a stam­pede that oc­curred as they were cross­ing a crowded bridge to reach a Hindu re­li­gious cer­e­mony in north­ern In­dia on Satur­day, po­lice said.

The stam­pede took place on the out­skirts of Varanasi, a city in Ut­tar Pradesh state known for its tem­ples. Or­ga­niz­ers were ex­pect­ing 3,000 devo­tees at the cer­e­mony, but more than 70,000 thronged the ashram of a lo­cal Hindu leader on the banks of the Ganges River, said po­lice Of­fi­cer S.K. Bha­gat.

“We were not pre­pared for such a large crowd,” Raj Ba­hadur, a spokesman for the or­ga­niz­ers, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The stam­pede hap­pened as po­lice started turn­ing back peo­ple from the over­crowded bridge, the Press Trust of In­dia news agency cited Ba­hadur as say­ing. That trig­gered a ru­mor among the devo­tees that the bridge had col­lapsed, and they started run­ning for safety, he said.

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