M A I N   N E W S

Jodhpur stampede kills 150

Railing at the narrow tract leading to Chamunda Devi temple in Mehrangarh gives way due to Navratra rush No contingency
plan despite the
recent terrorist
attacks; local
almost paralysed
No stretchers or ambulances; rescuers carry the injured ‘on shoulders like gunny bags’

Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jodhpur, September 30
The sacred nine-day festival of Navrataras began on a tragic note with 150 dead and over 200 injured in a stampede at the narrow tract to Chamunda Devi temple in the Mehrangarh Fort in the wee hours today.

Most of the dead were aged between 14 and
25. A listless district administration called the
Army for help. There was no semblance of
crisis management and the local government
seemed paralysed.

The trouble was triggered by a rumour about a wall of the fort collapsing whereas it was only a railing separating men and women's queues that had fallen apart due to the rush.

Amid the false alarm, somebody shouted, "Bomb, run for your life". All hell broke loose.

Unofficial figures of the death toll was over 180. The government claims the toll could be 150. Anand Raj Vyas, PRO, Jodhpur, said 150 deaths had been confirmed.

Devotees had started lining up the temple path since last night to be among the first to pay obeisance at the highly revered temple situated at a height of 125 metres at the far end of the 550-year-old “Sun Fort”.

More than 50 persons were said to be missing. Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje has ordered a probe to ascertain the cause behind the tragedy. There is much anger against the Jodhpur police and officials mismanagement.

Home minister Gulab Chander Kataria said he was inquiring into the allegations that the walls of the fort were weakening with deep cracks here and there. Eyewitnesses said it all began at a narrow turn, 150 metres from the temple.

As people jostled with one another to escape to safety, those behind them in the queue thought there was a bomb, said a badly injured Ghanshyam Parihar, his clothes in tatters.

Doctors at Mahatma Gandhi, Goyal, Manidhari and Suncity hospitals said most had died due to suffocation and broken ribs or sheer shock.

Even though the nation is on high alert following the recent terrorist strikes, the security arrangement at the temple were dismal. Despite 25,000 devotees, there were not enough cops deployed to regulate the crowd.

IGP Rajeev Dasot claimed all security arrangements were in place and the police present in strength.

Eyewitnesses said within minutes of the stampede, there were piles of bodies on the temple tract.

Most died on the spot or on way to hospital. There was no contingency plan to meet such an eventuality.

With no stretchers or ambulances, the rescuers physically carried the injured “on shoulders like gunny bags.”

At Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, relatives of the injured said there were no doctors in the morning to handle emergency.

Relatives were seen themselves trying to resuscitate their kin. Angry families mobbed BJP MP of the area, Jaswant Singh Bishnoi, who visited the site.

The people said despite the administration knowing that thousands would throng the temple during Navratras, no special arrangements had been made.

Chief Minister, Vasundhra Raje mourned the deaths of devotees. She announced Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured. Those with minor injuries would be given Rs 10,000.




PM grieved at Jodhpur, Orissa happenings
Tribune News Service

Paris, September 30
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed shock and grief over the death of devotees in the stampede at Jodhpur.

He also condemned the renewed violence in Kandhamal against Christians and asked the state government to maintain utmost vigil.

“The state government must protect life and property of all citizens,” Singh said.



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