The drama occurred at around 3 a.m. local time while it was still dark on the road to Mata Vaishno Devi, one of the busiest Hindu shrines in northern India.
People fell on top of each other, testified to the AFP, Ravinder who gave only one name.
” I helped pick up eight bodies when the ambulances arrived after about half an hour. I’m lucky to be alive, but I still tremble at the memory of what I saw. “
A representative of the authorities explained that there has been a rush of people wanting to make special prayers on the New Year’s Eve, but this has not been confirmed by other sources.
Indian towns and villages have millions of Hindu shrines, especially in the isolated regions of the Himalayas or in the jungles of the South.
Some are extremely important pilgrimage sites and the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invested heavily in improving infrastructure to facilitate access.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, around 100,000 worshipers visited the Hindu temple of Mata Vaishno Devi every day, about sixty kilometers from Jammu, the winter capital of Indian Kashmir. This figure has since been limited to 25,000 by the authorities, but, according to witnesses and the media, this gauge has been exceeded on several occasions.
Other fatal crushes in the past
Two stampedes in temples in August and September 2008 left more than 370 dead among Hindu worshipers in Himachal Pradesh (North) and Rajasthan (West).
Others, in January 2011 among a crowd of pilgrims on a mountain road in Kerala (South West) and then two years later, in October 2013 on a bridge near a temple in Madhya Pradesh, each had made more than ‘a hundred victims.
Rescue operations began quickly and the injured, some of whom are believed to be in serious condition, were taken to hospital.
Videos posted on social networks show ambulances equipped with flashing lights going in the middle of the night to hospitals.
To reach the shrine, which is open 24 hours a day, people travel to the nearby town of Katra and then climb about 15 kilometers on foot or by pony – there is also a helicopter service – until the entrance to the cave, where they often have to wait for hours.
Ravinder, who testified to theAFP, explained that the stampede occurred at a place where a huge crowd of people descending from the shrine meets those going up.
He estimates that there were at least 100,000 people.
” Nobody checked the registration forms of the faithful. I have been there many times, but have never seen so many people. “
It wasn’t until some of us managed to lift a dead body with our hands that people could see [ce qui se passait] and make room to move the bodies, he added.
Another witness, who came from Ghaziabad, near New Delhi, with a group of about 10 people, reported a
If they knew he had so many people they should have stopped people, said the man without giving his name.
The Prime Minister said to himself on Twitter
extremely saddened by the loss of human life.