M A I N   N E W S

146 die in Naina Devi stampede
Megha Mann/Jai Kumar
Tribune News Service

The Punjab government has set up a control room (Tel No. 01887 -232672) at Anandpur Sahib.

The SGPC has extended all help to the families of victims. The manager of Takht Kesgarh, Anandpur Sahib, can be contacted on 9814898516 or 01887-232023.

All schools in Anandpur Sahib will remain closed on Monday.

Anandpur Sahib/Bilaspur, August 3
More than 146 persons, most of them women and children, were killed in a stampede in the Naina Devi shrine in Himachal Pradesh. More than 200 persons were injured, some of them critically.

Since it was the Shravan Ashtami mela on the second day of the Navratras and a Sunday, the crowd of devotees, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 persons, thronged the popular hilltop shrine. The shrine has little space for such a huge congregation that waited in a serpentine queue to pay obeisance to the deity.

According to some accounts the railing collapsed first, leading to panic and the stampede, while others maintained that the stampede led to the collapse of the railing.

Several devotees fell down and the consequent stampede led to a chain reaction of spreading panic. Most of those killed were either trampled under the feet of those running or those who were anxious to save themselves.

The incident took place at around 10 am when pilgrims were entering the temple. Thousands of pilgrims from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan had assembled at the Shravan Ashtami Navratras. Suddenly, the rumour of landslide spread and pilgrims in panic started rushing out of the complex.

The narrow passage could not accommodate the rush incurring damage to the railing of staircase. The entire structure got uprooted and hundreds of pilgrims fell down.

"All of a sudden, a railing collapsed with uproar and shouts. The policemen deployed there started raining lathis on the pilgrims that resulted in stampede," said Mahesh Kumar, a pilgrim from Chamba.

Till the filing of this report, only 50 deceased could be identified. They mainly belonged to Patiala, Sirsa, Ropar, Santokhgarh in Una, Rajpura, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mansa, Fatehabad, Patran and Moga.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal visited the bereaved families at Anandpur Sahib civil hospital late in the evening.

The relatives of the victims rued that there was hardly any help from the administration till the evening. The administration made a move only in the evening when the Chief Minister was about to reach the spot.

Additional district magistrate C.P. Verma, who reached the spot from district headquarters Bilaspur that is 50 km from Naina Devi, said that almost all bodies of victims have been recovered and efforts were made to shift the seriously injured to big hospitals in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal besides senior police and administration officials from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh reached the spot. Teams of doctors from both states too have reached the temple. Three truckloads of dead bodies were brought to Anandpur Sahib.

The administration of Ropar district is camping at Anandpur Sahib and helping in rescue operations. Medical teams from all over the state have been sent to Anandpur Sahib. Punjab health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla also visited Anandpur Sahib.

The news of the tragedy spread like wild fire and all district officers, including the officiating Deputy Commissioner C.P. Varma and Superintendent of Police K.K.Indoria and the Chief Medical Officer Dr B.D. Sharma rushed to the spot along with a team of doctors and a police posse. Rescue and relief operations were still continuing.

This stampede accident also caused a huge traffic jam on all the three roads leading to the temple for hours together. This hampered relief and rescue work and the police had a tough time in trying to control the crowd and restore the smooth flow of traffic to enable transportation of those injured to the nearby primary health centre.

Senior police and civil officials are on the spot supervising rescue operations as a number of pilgrims who had rolled down the hill after the railing gave way are still waiting to be rescued.

Police sources said that injured have been admitted to hospitals in Anandpur Sahib and at Bilaspur while the critically injured were sent to the PGI, Chandigarh.

The rescue operations were hampered due to the terrain, rain and poor mobile phone signals in the area, making communication difficult. Asistant Commissioner Rakesh Kapoor said that six ambulances from ACC, Ambuja and the JP Group of Industries have been pressed into service.

The traffic from Anandpur Sahib to Naina Devi and from Gramoda to Naina Devi was been temporarily suspended and roads leading to the shrine were cordoned off.

Others who expressed shock and grief on this tragedy included forests minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, former forests minister Ramlal Thakur and BJP leaders Randhir Sharma and Rikhi Kaundal and Congress party leaders Hoshiar Singh Thakur, Pravin Sharma, Vikas Thakur, Hussain Ali and Dr Babu Ram Gauttam and the BSP State general secretary Krishan Kumar Kaushal among others.



Not the 1st time

  • In 1981, there was only one gate for entry and exit of devotees and the stampede that took place at the narrow staircases caused unprecedented panic and 53 persons lost their lives. Later, separate passages and gates for entry and exit were erected.
  • One woman had died and several injured on August 6, 2001 when the railing of the stairs leading to temple had collapsed.



Rs 1-lakh relief for kin of dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 3
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of the devotees who died in the Naina Devi temple stampede. He has also instructed the administration to provide treatment to the injured free of cost besides monetary help.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has asked Youth Akali Dal workers to rush to Nangal and Aanandpur to help the injured.



Mother, son from Ludhiana die in stampede
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 3
Nine-year-old Gurpratap and his mother Renu belonging to Shimlapuri here died in the stampede caused at the Naina Devi temple this afternoon. A pall of gloom engulfed the Guru Angad Dev colony in Shimlapuri as the news of the tragedy reached here late in the evening.

Gurdeep Singh, who was injured in the incident told his relatives over the phone about the death of his wife and son. Two Mullanpur residents were also reported to be injured in the stampede. Reports said many Ludhiana district residents were victims in the incident. They were yet to be identified.



Tragic incident condoled

Chandigarh, August 3
Haryana Governor A.R. Kidwai and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda have expressed deep sorrow over the tragic incident that took place near Naina Devi Temple in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh in which about 145 devotees were killed today. In separate condolence messages, Dr Kidwai and Hooda expressed their heartfelt sympathy to the family members of the deceased.

In New Delhi, Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee expressed deep shock and sorrow at the loss of lives in the stampede. BJP President Rajnath Singh, while expressing grief at the incident, said he had called on Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to get a brief about the incident and directed him to take all necessary steps to assuage the suffering of the affected people. UNI



Magisterial probe ordered

Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today ordered a magisterial inquiry into the stampede at Naina Devi shrine. It will be conducted by the Divisional Commissioner of Mandi.

In a hurriedly convened press conference at the local circuit house this afternoon, the Chief Minister expressed heartfelt grief and sympathies with the bereaved families. He described the incident as very painful. The CM who flew to the site, also directed the state heath minister Rajiv Bindal to reach the spot.

The Chief Minister announced an immediate relief of Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 to those who received minor injuries.



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