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Crowds gather outside the emergency department of an Etah hospital. At least 87 people have been killed during a stampede at a religious gathering in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh on July 2, according to local police. (Reuters via CNN Newsource)

Over 100 people killed in Indian crush

July 2, 2024

By Aishwarya S Iyer, Mariya Knight and Sugam Pokharel, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) — More than a hundred people were killed in a crush at a religious gathering in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, according to local police and administration officials.

The incident happened at a prayer meeting, known as a satsang, in the Mughal Garhi village in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, officials said. The village in India’s most populous state is around 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of the capital, New Delhi.

Among the 116 killed were 108 women and seven children, the state’s Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar Singh told reporters. About 72 people have been identified so far, he added. At least 18 people were injured.

Local officials have suggested that overcrowding was the cause of the crush, which saw people tumble into a local sewer.

Singh told reporters that the organizers of Tuesday’s gathering had filed an application that said “an estimated 80,000 people” were supposed to attend. However, “a lot more people than expected” showed up.

The deadly scenes happened after the event had finished, when a large number of people went “to touch the feet (of the religious figure) or to collect soil from the venue,” as per local tradition. People then began to fall into an open sewer nearby. “People started falling into the sewer and on top of each other,” Singh said.

He accused the organizers of failing to comply with a list of requirements given by the district. A high-level inquiry has been launched to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and a police report will be filed against the event organizers for allegedly exceeding permitted attendance levels, according to local officials.

“There has been a major lapse on the part of the organizers. They will face a strict punishment,” he said.

Survivors spoke of the harrowing incident in its aftermath. “People started falling one upon another, one upon another. Those who were crushed died. People there pulled them out,” Shakuntala Devi told the Press Trust of India news agency, according to Associated Press.

The bodies of at least 27 of the dead were taken to Etah district mortuary, according to Inspector General Shalabh Mathur, of the neighboring district Ambala Range, while the rest of the bodies are in Hathras, he said.

Efforts are underway to provide the injured with medical care and arrangements are being made for post-mortem examinations at various locations, Inspector General Mathur added.

A video distributed by Reuters showed crowds gathering outside a local hospital in Etah, where distraught families cried for the victims. Medical personnel could be seen carrying people on stretchers.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in an address in the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament known as the Lok Sabha.

Modi said the government is engaged in “relief and rescue work” and is coordinating with the state government. “The victims will be helped in every way,” he said.

Speaking to reporters, Ashish Kumar, the district magistrate of Hathras, said the stampede happened as people were leaving the event, which was held to celebrate the Hindu deity Shiva.

The district magistrate said police had given permission for the private event and officials were “put on duty for maintenance of law and order and security,” but arrangements inside were handled by the organizers.

An investigation into the incident will be conducted by a newly formed high-level committee, he added.

A New Year’s crush in January 2022 at one of India’s holiest shrines in Jammu, in the north of the country, killed at least a dozen people.

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