Sabarimala stampede: 102 pilgrims killed, 50 injured

Sabarimala stampede: 102 pilgrims killed, 50 injured

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Idukki, Kerala:  The extent of the Idukki stampede unfolded in the light of day. Scattered shoes and bags told a graphic story of fear, panic, pain and ultimately loss, as more than one lakh pilgrims scrambled over each other after a jeep lost control, and ran into them. (See Pictures)

102 people were killed, while over 50 got injured. The incident took place seven kilometres away from the shrine on Friday night. (Read: List of stampede victims)

The dead bodies have been taken to Vandiperiyar Hospital in Idukki. Of these, 54 have been identified. Some of the injured were rushed to Kottayam Medical College (Kerala) and Theni Medical College in Tamil Nadu.

It had been a special day with an especially large crowd gathered to see the Makarajyothi or celestial light near the Sabarimala shrine, all walking through a narrow, uneven jungle path, and the terrain hence made rescue and relief operations difficult.

"A jeep went out of control and went and hit the devotees who were there. People have been killed because of the crash and also because of the stampede. Most of the casualties happened because of the stampede according to preliminary reports." Kerala's Education Minister M A Baby told NDTV.

"Idukki is a hilly area. So naturally this is a distant place. The accident took place at about 8:15 pm. The Chief Minister, Home Minister, other administrative heads have contacted the district administration. We are totally focused on providing the best treatment, rescuing the injured, recovering the dead bodies. Most of those killed are from other states. Among those who have been killed, most of them are from Tamil Nadu," he added. (Watch)

It had been a special day with an especially large crowd gathered to see the Makarajyothi or celestial light near the Sabarimala shrine, all walking through a narrow, uneven jungle path, and the terrain hence made rescue and relief operations difficult.

The Sabarimala shrine draws around four crore pilgrims every year, and it's one of the richest shrines in the country, but pilgrims say not enough is done to avoid or limit disaster.

"There is no security at all. The police also came very late. There is no basic security and infrastructure," said a survivor.

"Usually around 20,000 pilgrims take this route during Makarajyothi. But this year, it was much beyond what we had calculated. We had informed pilgrims that Pampa (base camp) and the main shrine were out of bounds for them because of the rush. But it had the opposite effect and most of the pilgrims chose to take this route instead," said P Surendran Pillai, Youth Affairs Minister.

Majority of the deceased are from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as the grassland forest route, known as 'Pulmedu' in the Periyar tiger reserve, is trodden by devotees from these states. Unconfirmed reports said one of those killed was a Sri Lankan national. According to official sources, at least 12 persons, some of them children, are feared missing.

The state DGP and the Home Secretary supervised the rescue, search and relief  operations. 

Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan called an emergency meeting on relief work. He also ordered a judicial inquiry into the stampede. (Read & Watch: Kerala CM orders judicial probe)

The Prime Minister expressed deep shock and sent his condolences to the bereaved families. He  announced Rs 1 lakh for the families of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured. (Read: PM announces relief for victims)

Defence Minister AK Antony has assured all possible help from the Army in rescue operations. The Navy has dispatched an emergency medical team to the site.

"I have never seen such a huge crowd at Pulmedu in my life. The flow of pilgrims returning was much more than anybody's expectations", said Aneesh, one of the early local rescuers to reach the spot. Officials also confirmed that the rush of pilgrims had been much higher than expected.

In a similar incident in 1999, a stampede at Pampa on way to the hill shrine had killed 50 people on the occasion of Makar Jyoti. (Read: The Sabarimala tragedy in 1999)

In 1952, over 60 pilgrims were burnt to death when two cracker sheds caught fire.


(With PTI inputs)

Helpline Nos: 04869222049, 04869252244, 04869253456
Bangalore control room numbers: 080 22215911, 1800-4250-100




Story First Published: January 15, 2011 07:44 IST

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