Jodhpur: At least 147 people have been killed and over 425 injured in a major stampede at the Chamunda Devi Temple in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, where devotees had gathered in large numbers on the occasion of the start of Navaratri.
According to eyewitnesses there was a scramble on the narrow two-km path for gaining entry into the temple.
The casualties were mostly men as the stampede occurred in the queue meant for them while the queue for women and children was largely unaffected.
Some devotees slipped on the slope of the temple path, others started falling on each other causing the stampede.
A majority of those killed died due to suffocation. The shrine is in the Mehrangarh Fort run by the erstwhile Jodhpur royal family.
The District Collector of Jodhpur, Naresh Pal Gangwar said a ramp inside the temple collapsed, which led to the stampede.
"In the temple inside the palace, there is a ramp, on which there is a slope. People started pushing each other, and stampede bagan. Some people died due to suffocation. The injured have been rushed to all hospitals nearby," Gangwar said.
Rajasthan Director General of Police KS Bains said that an investigation has been ordered into the tragic incident.
"It is being inquired. There were a large number of devotees and early morning there was a power failure. That is the cause of stampede. Some people slipped because of which there was a stampede," Bains said.
He also clarified that that was no bomb scare which led to the stampede.
"There is no bomb blast rumours and police was deployed in full strength. Most of the dead are male," he said.
A police official, however, said there is difficulty in giving the exact figures as most of the people have taken the dead bodies of their near and dear ones fearing post-mortem.
At least 30 bodies have been brought to the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital at Jodhpur, while the remaining 10 were taken to the Mathura Das Hospital, Divisional Commissioner Kiran Soni Gupta was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
Jodhpur helpline number: 0291 - 2650316
Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said, "Enough police deployment was ensured to avoid an eventuality but the rush was just too much. There was a separate line for women too."
According to some eyewitnesses, a rumour of a bomb being planted in the temple was the reason that the stampede started.
It is feared the number of casualties may go up.
In August this year, a stampede outside the Naina Devi temple left 145 pilgrims dead.
Authorities have already ordered a probe into possible organisational lapses that led to a stampede outside the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh.
Rumours of a landslide had triggered that stampede. The pilgrims ran down a narrow mountain trail from the temple in Bilaspur district, only to meet thousands of people walking up in the opposite direction.
Most were trampled while dozens fell to their death after railings broke on the steep mountainside. More than 100 people were injured.