More than a hundred people were killed in India when a stampede broke out on a bridge near the Ratangarh temple in Madhya Pradesh state.
Many pilgrims were crushed to death by the stampede, while others died when they jumped from the bridge into the water below. Officials believe the panic may have been started by a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse.
The narrow bridge is about 500 meters long and was recently rebuilt after another stampede happened in 2007, reports the BBC. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered near the town of Datia for a Hindu festival.
Local devotee Atul Chaundhary spoke with BBC Hindi about the stampede, saying:
“Several people could be seen flattened to the ground in the midst of the melee. Some of the youngsters panicked and jumped into the swollen river. I and my friends were close to the exit point and along with several others ran for safety. Scores of others were not so lucky.”
The New York Times notes that it is believed that about 25,000 people were on the bridge when a section of the railing broke, causing the rumor that the bridge was about to collapse. Images of the bridge after the chaos ended showed piles of clothing laying all over.
Relief efforts were also delayed in the aftermath of the Indian temple stampede, causing bystanders to become more frustrated. They turned on police and pelted them with stones. There were several conflicting reports about why the stampede started, along with the rumor of a bridge collapse.
Some witnesses suggested the police started the panic by charging into the crowd while swinging their canes. However, police officials denied this report. Other witnesses said a group of pilgrims started the bridge collapse rumor to try and make the line go faster. The government of Madhya Pradesh opened a judicial inquiry into the cause of the deadly stampede.
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