37 dead in stampede at Hindu festival in India
AP and AFPALLAHABAD, India--Anxious relatives were searching for missing family members Monday in a northern India city that is home to one of the world's largest religious gatherings, unsure if their loved ones were caught in a stampede that killed 37 people or had simply gotten lost among the tens of millions of pilgrims.
February 12, 2013, 3:45 am TWN
People thronged to the main hospital in Allahabad to see if their relatives were among 37 dead and 30 people injured in Sunday evening's stampede at the city's train station. Tens of thousands of people were in the station waiting to board a train when railway officials announced a last-minute change in the platform, triggering the chaos.
An estimated 30 million Hindus took a dip Sunday at the Sangam — the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers — as part of the 55-day Kumbh Mela, or Pitcher Festival. Sunday was one of the holiest days to bathe.
People missing at the Kumbh Mela is the stuff of legend in India and at least a dozen films have been made on the theme. On Sunday, like most other days, volunteers and officials used loudspeakers to give details of children and elderly who were “found” on the river banks, having lost their families in the crowd.
It was unclear how many people were actually missing because of the stampede.
Kumbh Mela Chief Organizer Quits
The head of the organizing committee for India's massive Kumbh Mela religious festival announced his resignation on Monday.
“I have resigned as the chairman of the festival committee,” said Mohammed Azam Khan, who is also a cabinet minister in the state of Uttar Pradesh. “Although the stampede happened beyond the scope of my jurisdiction, I am deeply disturbed and step down on moral grounds.”
Witnesses blamed police action for the stampede.
“We heard an announcement that our train is coming on platform number 4 and when we started moving toward that platform through a footbridge, we were stopped. Then suddenly the police charged us with batons and the stampede started,” passenger Shushanto Kumar Sen said.
“People started tumbling over one another and within no time I saw people, particularly women and children, being trampled over by others,” Sen said.
Police denied they had used batons to control the crowd.
“It was simply a case of overcrowding. People were in a hurry to go back and there were not enough arrangements by the railway authorities,” said Arun Kumar, a senior police officer.
Medical superintendent Dr. P. Padmakar of the main state-run hospital said 23 of the 37 people killed were women.