36 killed in stampede in India near Kumbh Mela festival

Monday 11 February 2013 16.42
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A man is loaded into an ambulance after being injured during the stampede
A man is loaded into an ambulance after being injured during the stampede
Hindu devotees wait for their train at Allahabad train station
Hindu devotees wait for their train at Allahabad train station
The stampede took place during Kumbh Mela festival
The stampede took place during Kumbh Mela festival

At least 36 people were killed in a stampede at a railway station in northern India yesterday.

The stampede came on the busiest day of the world's largest religious festival, at which 30 million people had gathered to wash away their sins in the Ganges river.

Twenty-seven of the dead were women, mostly elderly and poor. An eight-year-old girl also died.

Up to 100 million pilgrims and Hindu ascetics are expected to attend the two-month long Kumbh Mela festival, which comes to an end next month.

It is held every 12 years in a temporary city covering an area larger than Athens, spread over a wide sandy river bank in Allahabad at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet a third mythical river.

The festival grows in size every time it is held and is considered the world's largest temporary gathering of people.

Officials said 30 million visited the site yesterday, considered the most auspicious day to bathe in the river.

Officials gave contradictory versions of what caused the crush.

A railway official said police had been using batons to control the crowd, triggering panic.

However, a state government official said a footbridge handrail collapsed, sending people slipping down the stairs and starting a stampede.

A spokesman for Indian railways said authorities had found 36 bodies and 30 people were injured. The injured were being treated at hospitals in Allahabad.

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