At least 18 people were killed in a massive stampede at a Hindu festival in the Indian city of Allahabad Sunday, an official said.
The footbridge of a packed railway station buckled and a railing collapsed, causing people to slip down the stairs and trigger the stampede. Witnesses said delayed train services and shoddy infrastructure were to blame for the chaos.
A top government official, who asked not to be quoted by name, told Reuters, “I can confirm that 18 people have died and 13 have been injured.”
The stampede occurred during Maha Kumbh Mela, or Grand Pitcher Festival, which takes place at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet a third, mythical river. The festival takes place once every 12 years and, according to The New York Times, Sunday was the busiest day of the 55-day festival as 30 million people were expected taking a dip in the river to cleanse themselves of sins.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement:
“I am deeply shocked to learn of the unfortunate incident at the Allahabad Railway station today, in which precious lives have been lost and many pilgrims to Kumbh Mela among other people have been injured.”
Singh directed the Ministry of Railways to provide “necessary assistance” to those involved in the stampede. He also promised to compensate the families of the dead and injured.
Sadly, because of how many people gather at these festivals, stampedes are not an uncommon occurrence. A similar incident occurred during a Hindu prayer festival in November. Eighteen people were killed in a stampede during the Chhath Festival, where Hindus gather to pray to the sun god.
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