24 killed in stam­pede ahead of Hindu cer­e­mony

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Biswajeet Banerjee

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.

Nine­teen peo­ple were killed on the spot and five oth­ers suc­cumbed to their in­juries at a hos­pi­tal, said po­lice of­fi­cer Daljit Chaud­hary. Four of the 20 in­jured peo­ple were still in se­ri­ous con­di­tion at the hos­pi­tal, he said.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi said he was deeply sad­dened by the tragedy. “I have spo­ken to of­fi­cials and asked them to en­sure all pos­si­ble help to those af­fected,” he tweeted.

A man loads a truck with footwear of vic­tims of a stam­pede on a crowded bridge on the out­skirts of Varanasi, In­dia, Satur­day. More than a dozen peo­ple were killed and sev­eral more in­jured in a stam­pede that oc­curred as they were cross­ing a crowded bridge Satur­day to reach the venue of a Hindu re­li­gious cer­e­mony in north­ern In­dia, po­lice said.

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