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'The dead and the injured were lying in heaps'
Vijay Singh in Satara | January 26, 2005 18:37 IST
Last Updated: January 26, 2005 19:30 IST
In one of the worst tragedies of its kind in recent times, a stampede killed some 350 people gathered for a temple fair in Wai, in Satara district, western Maharashtra, on January 25.
One theory put the blame on an electric fault that caused fire leading to panic and stampede. Another said that slippery floor outside the door of the temple led to the accident.
Those who survived told tales of horror. Of bodies heaped all over the place. Of women and children lying dead. Temple priests Ramdas and Shailendra Gurav recount what they witnessed...
Ramdas Gurav (Shirsagar) , temple trustee and priest.
"I was in the trust office when I heard an uproar. I came out and saw people screaming, running helter-skelter, trampling each other in the process. I took the mike and pleaded with the people to stop. It took some 20 to 25 minutes for the people to calm down. But by then it was too late. I later learnt that three hundred devotees had died in the stampede and scores were injured.
The dead and the injured were lying around in heaps. I took the help of a shopkeeper and started sifting through the bodies, separating the injured from the dead, and moving them to open spaces.
Luckily it was festive season and four government doctors were on duty in the trust office.
We hurried to administer first aid; but many were seriously injured and the doctors were not capable of helping them much.
Dead bodies were lying all over the place.
I asked whoever was around to help. But medical help reached only after 4 pm. The stampede happened in the afternoon.
I saw the roads jammed with people and vehicles.
After a few hours a wave of people came back up the hill to the accident site, apparently to search for relatives among the bodies strewn around.
From then on it was a free-for-all. Some who could not find their dear ones started getting frustrated.
Some of them started to ransack and burn shops and houses. Scared, the doctors and policemen fled the place.
The mob started beating anyone who came in the way.
I hid myself among the dead bodies; I came out and resumed work after they left.
Local villagers were a big help.
The villagers caught one man throwing stones at a shop and handed him over to the police"
Shailendra Gurav, priest
"I was in the temple when people informed me that something was wrong outside. Then suddenly I saw people running in desperation. I saw women and children lying down trying to escape the crowds.
I locked the temple door and remained inside with a few devotees. After some time everything become normal. I did not venture out because I was responsible for protecting the idol of the goddess.
After an hour, I saw a huge mob coming up the hill. They started beating up a police officer and people who were helping the victims.
After some time they started burning shops and looting.
I remained inside the temple in fear. It was only in the evening that I came to know that it was such a big tragedy, in which hundreds were killed".
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